The biggest flower show on earth is held in July, in southwest London in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. The sizzling temperatures of the Royal Horticultural Society summer show are matched by the steamy hot floral displays. You see, if Chelsea is the smarter, better educated child in the English horticultural family; Hampton Court is the bigger, brasher, and more daring younger sibling. The atmosphere of Hampton Court is ebullient, larger than life, and defiantly friendlier than her stuffy serious sister, Chelsea!
The rise, fall and rise of British gardening extravaganzas has a potted history. In the 1950’s horticultural hotbeds of hyacinths were staged fortnightly in the halls of Westminster. Treasures found their way home on the trains to Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. As attendees dropped these shows became less often and eventually were replaced by the big bolshy flower shows like Chelsea, which thanks to television, attracted people from all corners of the world. Chelsea’s social status is unparalleled, attracting royal visitors and a slew of celebrities at the beginning of London’s social calendar. Garden wise it attracts the big names and big sponsors, although this year ‘show gardens’ have halved to nine!
More recently, Hampton Court, was the creation of entrepreneur Adrian Boyd who had the idea for the grand horticultural event as he walked past the historic landmark to and from his workplace each day. He brought together Historic Royal Palaces and sponsor, Network Southeast rail services to launch the first show in July 1990, which drew in large crowds. He used his expertise in advertising and marketing to help run the event for three years, with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) taking over in 1993. This July show timed to coincide with the volume of summer growth attracts a more practical gardening base.
New to the flower show cache this spring is the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, which will take place in the 1,000-acre parkland of the Chatsworth Estate, set in the heart of the rolling Derbyshire countryside. Sponsored by Wedgwood, the theme of the show is ‘Design Revolutionaries’, celebrating creative people who, through their foresight and innovation, have changed the way we think about gardens and garden design.
Arrive in Style at Hampton Court
Arrive at the show with panache. Seriously the best way to arrive at Hampton Court Palace is by boat – down the Thames – brilliant! Don’t bake in the heat (or drown in the rain); instead glide down the river from the train station right to the Palace in one of Turks’ elegant shuttle boats. They also run from the piers at Kingston and Richmond, and are complete with on-board bars, so you’ll arrive looking as stylish as the flowers themselves.
Plan Your Visit
Hampton Flower Show guides are helpful reminders of the day. If it’s hot remember the shaded Long Water is lined with large Lime Trees providing the perfect place to sit in the shade with a picnic. Comfy shoes, hat and sun cream is a must.
So what to expect this year?
We are looking forward to seeing the show garden design by our friend Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer in traditional stone, oak and willow with ornamental trees, meadows, an orchard and kitchen garden, for Blind Veterans UK. The garden is for the beneficiaries, volunteers and staff of the charity; celebrating the abilities and activities of its veterans. At the centre of the garden, a mature Liquidambar provides shade with 40-year-old rescued orchard trees and ornamental maples. Roses, dahlias and grasses are included in a contemporary planting style with a kitchen garden that uses more unusual species of edibles chosen as much for their fragrance as their use.
While You’re There
Extend your trip in this part of the world and enjoy some other gardening delights in nearby Richmond (accessible by Turks Shuttle Boats). First off, there are the beautiful gardens at National Trust property Ham House. Here you’ll find a kitchen garden dating back to 1653, a box parterre and Dutch lavender in the Cherry Garden, and a river meadow.
Then there’s the much-loved Petersham Nurseries (pictured). Just a short drive away from Hampton Court and a quick walk from Ham House, this nursery, shop and restaurant is a calm and tranquil hotspot for gardeners in London. Shop for everything from seeds to tableware, and then enjoy a relaxed lunch in the glasshouse restaurant; a perfect way to round out your trip.
Come with Us
Britain is full of remarkable garden shows and gardens, it’s the pinnacle of global horticulture. Our brand new UK tour begins in London at the Summer Flower Show at Hampton Court palace and then travels into Northern England, Wales and Scotland in high summer where perennial borders are full and the weather perfect. We are particularly looking forward to the roses! Read the itinerary by clicking here!
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