The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (HCPFS) starts tomorrow, 8 July. So what can show goers expect this year? Will it be Chelsea’s purple flowers and intermingled planting all over again? The Hampton Court show has developed a reputation for greater innovation and experimentation over the past decade, and its environmental emphasis is clear.
It’s a bit odd that the Chelsea Flower Show still remains the main focus of most UK-bound garden tours when the HCPFS is billed as “the biggest garden show in the UK”. The early July time allows the show gardens to use a wide range of summer-flowering plants, expanding the traditional perennial palette. And as the HCPFS is not constrained like the Chelsea site, there’s a lot more room to move about and appreciate the 29 show gardens for 2014, plus the huge range of garden goods for sale.
This year’s main Show Gardens feature 2 of special interest to me. The first is by Australian designer Jim Fogarty, for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
RBG Melbourne Director and Talking Plants/GardenDrum author Tim Entwisle is currently pressing the flesh in London as he awaits the show’s opening and the opportunity to sell the Australian Garden at Cranbourne as a great tourism destination. (You can see more about Jim’s garden plan in an earlier GardenDrum story here)
The other garden I’d like to see is by young garden designer Jack Dunckley, who first came to my notice with his ‘Juxtaposition’ garden at Chelsea in 2013.
Jack’s HCPFS garden is the ‘Just Retirement Garden‘, perhaps a slightly surprising topic for a 21 year old, but then Jack’s no ordinary designer, having had his first show garden at the Malvern Flower Show when he was just 14, as well as managing his own Birchfield Nursery since he was 17. Honestly, some of these driven high achievers make you feel like you’d better retire early.
Acting as a pathway to retirement, the planting symbolises a stage in a person’s life and their development into maturity. The viewing windows allow glimpses of the garden from outside and also experiment with the contrasting textures of hard and soft landscaping.
Unlike most show gardens, this garden can be walked through as well as around, as you can see on the 3D digital ‘walkthrough’ of Jack’s garden below.
Each year the Conceptual Gardens which are a great part of HCPFS as they push the design boundaries just that little bit further, with a 2014 theme of the Seven Deadly Sins.
I love the look of Rachel Parker Soden’s ‘Lust‘, based on the quote from Uncle Monty in Withnail and I (1987):
“Flowers are essentially tarts, prostitutes for the bees.”
The garden looks to re-contextualise the flower show garden as a brothel in its own red light district and the flower show visitor being a voyeur on the sex lives of plants. I think that there’s a lot about plants that is very sexy indeed, so I’ll be keen to see whether the realisation of this garden lives up to its design promise. But I just love red, and the best thing to go with red, is, of course, yet more red.
‘Gluttony’ is taken on by experienced show garden designer Katerina Rafaj of Purpleberry Gardens, highlighting the huge amount food that is both being consumed but also going to waste in Western societies. Garden elements deliberately evoke a number of iconic food brands.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is on from 8-13 July, 2014. Visit the RHS site for tickets and more information.