Sunday, 8 July 2012

Hampton Court Virgin

I have been to many garden shows over the years but never Hampton Court.  This was the year for me to visit I felt. I usually like to go to either Chelsea or Malvern RHS Shows but I had no plans to go to either this year.  My favourite show is Malvern, in May.  It’s much more low key than Chelsea and the scenery of the Malvern Hills as a backdrop is stunning.  If one can negotiate the wheelie trolleys successfully, it is easy to get a prolonged look at the gardens at Malvern without fighting for position as you would on Chelsea public days.  Hampton Court also had this feel.  I went on the Thursday when it was hot and very humid and it felt like a tropical day with the added illusion of being in another, more exotic country when I heard the squawk of wild parrots overhead (apparently they are now a common sight in the London suburbs).

When I go to any garden show I am very focused and my ‘cut flower-dar’ is up and running to full capacity as I begin scanning from left to right awaiting something new, old, exciting, stunning, weird ... to jump out at me.  Hampton Court was no different!

When I get to the floral marquee I can feel a sense of contentment and anticipation and I become aware of a fixed smile on my face as I start to wander around.  I think what I do unconsciously is search for, what’s hot or not, anything I haven’t seen before and test myself by looking at flowers I just don’t ‘get’ just in case my tastes have changed.  Three flowers I just don’t ‘get’ are Begonias, Gladioli and Alstroemeria so this is where I started.

I feel I should like Alstroemeria but I can honestly say I don’t. I’m not sure why, perhaps because they are ubiquitous in all flower selling establishments and their vase life is seemingly ‘forever’ with no real dynamic process of decay.  They also don’t give me that ‘wow’ or lush feeling in my stomach that I get when I see my other favourite flowers growing.

Now a flower that intrigues and intimidates me in equal measure is the Foxtail Lily. They are just so big!

I always head to the Allium displays, they never fail to look stunning, controlled and architectural.  I love the ‘Forelock’, ‘Art’ and ‘Sativum Ophioscorodan’ (get your teeth round that one!)

Sweet peas and delphiniums .... well it would be rude not to!  I loved overhearing a rather frustrated gardener say, as she was looking at the delphiniums,  “That is very expensive food for slugs”. I think she summed up the feeling of most growers this year in the best weather, not only for ducks, but also the little blighters, slugs!

Shrubs are something I am lacking in the cutting garden.  Starting a cutting garden from scratch means I have not been lucky enough to inherit many mature shrubs for the vase.  This is something I am addressing each year as a longer term investment.  Hampton Court provided some gems.  Here are my favourites of the day.  First, Hydrangea Arborescens Invincibelle, and what a belle she is with her delicate petals and pale pink colour.  Secondly, Spirea Japonica.

There is always something to make you titter at garden shows and Hampton Court was no exception with some snogging peacocks and a very obedient dog, “Stay!”

Now for a little thought on things that are hot or at the very least seem to feature in many gardens and stalls at Hampton.  For me there seemed to be a repetition of Achillea, Red Velvet and the clover, Trifolium Pannonicum with it’s large flower heads.

In the gardens, the most stunning display for me was Amnesty International’s, ‘Las Mariposas’ (Spanish for butterflies) ‘garden’, or should I say 'cube'. With the exotic butterflies inside, it reminded me of a scene in A.S.Byatt’s novel, Angels and Insects.

Now the final question, did I behave myself and not buy anything? .... of course not!  But only two things were purchased, a rustic flower candle sconce and the irresistible Scabiosa Barocca, it looks like a delicious raspberry ripple ice-cream, what girl could refuse this?

A perfect day at Hampton Court!



  1. I sighed and was wowed all the way through your journey blog.

  2. Thanks Blarbs. Every garden show feels like a journey with the perfect "Ah" of satisfaction as I leave.

  3. Steve is rather partial to the Punky alliums, me I'm not so sure. Lovely report. I felt that I was there with you x

  4. The 'Punky Alliums' are great for making little characters, so if Steve needs any tiny facial feature cut outs just let me know. Hope you're keeping up your allotment blog Kitty?

  5. I see what you mean about the foxtail lilies but they're not as scary as a red hot poker - please don't put any of those on your lovely blog!!