Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RHS Hampton Court 2013: Preview

The 2013 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show will soon be here, starting on July 9th. This year the show format has been updated with the various gardens, trade stands and exhibitors split up into distinct zones. Each zone will be themed and include plants, gardens, food and trade displays to reflect each theme.

The Grow Zone will explore the world of plants, Inspire Zone features conceptual design and fresh ideas whilst the Escape Zone will transplant the visitors away from the hustle and bustle of the city to the countryside without leaving the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

Stephen Bennet, the RHS Shows Director explained ‘We have made exciting changes to enhance the visitor experience by introducing zones to the shows, each with its own distinct flavour and atmosphere taking the visitor on a journey through these fabulous shows in their spectacular settings.”

As always the show gardens take centre stage, with there being 33 show gardens this year and as always there will be a number of trade displays in the Floral Marquee.

The Gardens
This is our pick of the show gardens:

August 1963 - I Have A Dream
Designed by Steven Ryan, this garden is described as a place for contemplation. It is a contemporary garden that celebrates 50 years of progress in racial integration and equality since Martin Luther King’s famous speech from August 1963. The backdrop, paving and water features are inspired by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The three main blocks of planting are designed to represent racial segregation and racial equality. The water features have a white and a black water cascade, with the water flowing into the centre of the garden and meeting in a single pool. The obelisks in the garden are inscribed with quotes from the speech.

A Cool Garden
Designed by Cool Gardens, four multi stem Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ specimens will dominate this garden. Corten steel has been chosen to be used for the rear feature wall, rills and decorative elements as it highlights the natural colours of the surrounding landscape. The main central axis of the garden leads over a structural glass panel to the ornate gate at the rear, offering glimpses of the wider landscape beyond.

The Garden Pad
Dan Bowyer has designed The Garden Pad with a bachelor in mind who enjoys the finer things in life and wants a contemporary space for relaxing and entertaining, both during the day and at night. The design creates the perfect atmosphere for entertaining. It features stained black ash walls that have been specially treated for outdoor use, a fireplace and seating for two, within a planting scheme of birch trees and other plants chosen to provide maximum summer enjoyment.

Home Spun has been designed by Kasia Howard, and relates to our desire to create an idyll, to explore creativity and individuality and make a place for ourselves in this world. The inspiration behind the design is the nesting instinct; how humans and animals alike choose to settle in a landscape, create unique structures of infinite variation and call them 'home'. The three enclosures are each made using the same framework, but have been styled and decorated in a different way. The plants surround, shelter and animate the structures and are also perfect for cutting and enriching the home environment.

Impressions of Norfolk
This garden depicts elements of rural Norfolk and features a disused lime kiln and workshed. Designer,  Chris Mitchell,  has used corrugated metal fences as a backdrop, with trees to the rear and side boundaries, giving the design a rural feel. The arc of the kiln on the right of the garden is made from brick surrounding a wooden door frame. Small steps lead to the kiln. 

Layers and Links
This secluded, sociable space designed by Raine Clarke-Wills and built by Bushy Business aims to celebrate and mirror the diverse and dynamic cultural make-up of modern Britain. Linked across various levels, the surfaces and sculptures reflect different cultures, and the planting draws on horticultural influences from over the world. The owner is a single, well-travelled Englishman of Turkish descent, with many friends. Numerous points of reference – social, cultural, familial – inspired the idea of blending the diverse elements here, which resonated with his experiences. This is also a place for both contemplation and conviviality.

The McCarthy and Stone Garden
Chris Beardshaw returns to Hampton Court again this year with a garden that celebrates the wisdom of the older generation, by challenging preconceptions of later life and honouring the experiences of the UK’s growing over-60s population. Built around a circular structure, the garden encompasses three pathways leading to a hidden sanctuary area, signifying not only the unique ways in which the brain processes memories, but also how it then utilises those memories again in day-to-day life. The garden has been designed to engage visitors with later life experiences via a large head sculpture located within the inner sanctum, which plays audio recordings of retirees sharing their knowledge, experiences, hopes and ambitions for the future.

The Native Shower

Wellington City Council bring a antipodean approach to Hampton Court with this garden, The Native Shower. Designed by Bayley LuuTomes, the inspiration for this garden came from a shell found along the Kapiti coast in front of a bach, a traditional Kiwi holiday home. The focal point of the design is the outdoor shower. Which, when in useis transformed into a water feature. Excess water is channelled into a surrounding irrigation system created from recycled glass bottles. The channels also navigate water along each terrace to irrigate the native New Zealand plantings. 

A Room With A View

Designed and built on a budget of just £15,000, the concept for this garden is that the owners of A Room with a View have had a kitchen extension. To save money, the excavated topsoil from the extension has been used to lift the garden towards the new sleeper deck viewing platform rather than being removed afterwards, which would have been expensive. Reclaimed sculpted sleeper stepping stones lead up to the deck, which is partially surrounded by a reclaimed timber screen and a rusty steel curtain. The muted tones of the wood and metal are reflected in the green, silver and brown colour palette of the planting scheme. The sculpted timber seats and metal fire make this the perfect spot to savour a beer in the evening and enjoy the views.

The Signing Tree
This unusual garden, designed for relaxation and meditation, makes use of the interactive nature of generative soundscapes and colourscapes, which are created by people moving within the garden via sensors and/or smartphone technology. A central feature of a suspended floating tree, a living sculpture representing a form that is detached from its normal setting, provides a meditative focal point within this relaxing, yet intriguing garden.

Tip of the Iceberg
Looming into view, floating on a shimmering glass sea, is the Tip of the Iceberg. The sun reflects multi-faceted, crystalline elements within the garden, which on closer inspection are clearly recognisable as fridges. Given a new lease of life as building blocks and planters, each fridge represents an alpine habitat, filled with blue and white flowers basking in their cool surroundings. Inspiration came from Japanese gravel gardens and often seeing fridges dumped at the tip. Although the garden could be seen as just another ‘fridge mountain’, the design highlights the reality of our resource-constrained world and shows that something striking and beautiful can be created from the debris of modern life.

The Witches of MacBeth
Taking inspiration from the witches in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, this garden is an imaginative depiction of the witches’ home. The design includes a dilapidated house that is overgrown with the plants used in the witches’ concoctions. The garden seems to be abandoned; it has been left to decay and grow out of control. The planting scheme features medicinal and poisonous plants that are important to the witches. A cauldron has been knocked over and the contents are spilling out, bubbling spontaneously to give the impression that there is evil magic within this garden.

Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet
This contemporary garden features a sunken dining terrace with a floor of planked Irish limestone. The retaining walls around the terrace are all at seating height, for ease of access in order to pick the array of fresh herbs, salads, vegetables and fruit that grow under a canopy of fruit trees. At the back of the garden there is a fully functional kitchen for cooking delicious evening meals. At the opposite end, there is a fire pit with a mini water cascade that fills the watercress rill beneath it.

We went along last year, here is our review of the 2012 Hampton Court Flower Show.

If you are coming from elsewhere in the country then it may well be worth staying over and making a short holiday of your trip. As you would expect London is very well catered for hotels with accommodation available in pretty much every price range. With the convenience of the underground you would not need to stay in the immediate vicinity of Hampton Court, but could stay in Central London and soak up the vibe - especially if we get a nice warm summer. There is plenty more to experience, Kew Gardens is always worth visiting, as well as the various museums and art galleries in the centre of London. 

Hampton Court is located to the West of London and can be accessed easily by car or by public transport. We drove last year and found the journey simple, and there was plenty of parking available.

See the RHS website for ticket infomation.

There are more gardens being built for this years show than the selection above, these were ones that for one reason or another jumped out at us as being unusual or interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing these in the flesh when we attend in a few weeks time, and seeing which get gold.... I have already picked out a few that I think will do well, but of course the key will be the execution of the design.



  1. This looks fab and I am so bummed that I won't see it. But I am looking forward to your blog post on the gardens. The Dream garden sounds great! Jeanine

    1. Hi Jeannine, hopefully on your next trip here you can time it at the same time one of the larger shows are being held so you can attend, you'll enjoy it!

  2. These are pretty spectacular designs. I look forward to seeing your posts about them. Have you posted pictures of your completed pond project I missed it?

    1. Some promising designs isn't it? We're looking forward to seeing them built ourselves. We'll do the pond reveal soon :)

  3. It's interesting to hear some of the concepts behind the garden designs along with the sketches.

    1. Quite fascinating to know the concepts and ideas behind the designs!

  4. I can't wait to see your post on the actual gardens!

  5. Very interesting gardens. A lot of thought went into all of them. I just love the idea and design of "I have a dream".

  6. Looking forward to seeing your blog post(s) when you go to the show. These concept drawings make them look quite fabulous!

    1. The Concept Drawings gives a good taster of what's to come!

  7. It'll be interesting to see how these designs actually translate at the shows. Homespun and Layers & Links both sound very interesting.

    1. Indeed, looking forward to seeing how these designs will translate during the show, all very promising!

  8. I always look forward to your photos of the actual results when you visit these places. This looks to be a very interesting one.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. We're looking forward to seeing the show again this year Cher :)

  9. The show gardens look far more ambitious that what we see here in SoCal. I look forward to seeing, through your eyes, how the pictures are realized.

    1. Hampton Court is the biggest garden show when it comes size of venue, and there's loads to see.

  10. I'm always amazed by what has inspired designers to create those spaces like in the Wellington City Council one!

  11. I look forward to my MArk and Gaz Tour of Hampton Court! I love the look of several of the show gardens, so it will be interesting to see if they deliver. And I am intrigued by the outdoor shower thing where the water is then recycled. I'd have to move the just-planted rhubarb, but we've been talking about having an outdoor shower for rinsing off the sand and salt, making it a part of the garden could be a really exciting project...

    1. Ohh I like the sound of your idea Janet, having an outdoor shower which will be very handy and useful for you all. And on hot summer days (which we still occasionally get) it would be nice to have a refreshing shower outdoors.

      It'll be a pleasure to give you a tour Janet :)


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