Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Thanks to Lucy and Ecover, I 'won' two tickets to the RHA Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – it's probably 15 years since we last went to one of the big garden shows, so Cliff and I were looking forward to our day out at Hampton Court.

The weather has turned from what seems like perpetual winter to a scorcher of a summer, I needed something cool and comfortable to wear so I ordered a dress - but on the evening before our day out 'Track'n'Trace' said my Emergency Frock was still in Plymouth. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I discovered the parcel was now at the local Post Office and ready for delivery! Unfortunately the minutes ticked by and there was no sign of the postman – we really needed to set off, it's a 100 mile drive to Hampton Court from Suffolk; we'd got to the outskirts of the village when the red post van was sighted, so I leapt out of the car, ambushed the postman, got the cheery blue polka-dot package and did a quick change in the passenger seat as we sped along!

Once we'd reached "leafy Surrey" we used the Park&Ride for the final part of the journey - well worth the £5 and very efficient.

So here are my thoughts on the show . . .

This is the garden that Lucy helped to plant, I appreciate it had to have a connection with Ecover products and branding but to me they did look a bit like props that had been plonked among a very lovely frothy blue-and-white-with-a-hint-of-pink plantscape. All very pretty . . . it one 'Best in Show'.

My favourite parts of the Ecover Garden were the shady bits at the back, which had some beautiful ferns – in fact ferns popped up in lots of the show gardens (I would love more and different varieties, in the shady areas of our garden.)

This was one of the 'concept gardens' and I think the most successful because the idea was clear but not over-played; I loved the planting and attention to detail – even down to sound effects and smoke. There was clever use of Foxtail Lilies and Kangaroo Paws to depict flames and embers gradually merging through ash grey foliage and grasses to lush green new growth.

One of many gardens with a 'we're all doomed' message (if the weather had been rubbish it would have been rather depressing) however, I loved the colours in the ground cover planting around the tombstones, which were a bit too school-project-like for me.

Cliff and I both liked this design inspired by the flora of a limestone pavement; it is like a sculpture with shade-loving ferns (again) in the cool dark gaps between the blocks. The strong sunlight and heat on Friday demonstrated exactly how this environment works.

As we walked around the show gardens it was obvious that some plant choices more than others attracted insects – the bees, hover-flies and dragonflies (you can just see a flash of turquoise on the left of the photo) were loving this mix – grasses, foxgloves, burnet and campion – just like a roadside verge but re-interpreted in subtle rusty colours dotted with white. Wouldn't it be great if there were a prize for the garden design that attracted the most insect life during the show?!

It was even hotter inside the marquees, we could only bear to be inside them for a few minutes at a time before needing to recover outside where the temperature was 'only' 29C. The Foxtail Lilies caught our eyes again – I've never grown these, but fancy giving them a try – I love tall spires and the amber and cream ones were particularly beautiful.

This display of Alliums by Warmenhoven really stood out from the others in the huge Foral Marquee – it had such style and confidence and was meticulously finished.

So, did I buy anything?

I very nearly didn't, but in the floral marquee I spotted a stand of scented-leaf and species pelargoniums and couldn't resist having some to add to my collection.

I was a long hot day, after flicking through the official catalogue of the show and seeing some of the BBC coverage and other blogs, I realise there was lots we missed – but at the time, finding a patch of shade and having a rest from the heat and enjoying an ice-cream were priorities over making sure we'd 'done' everything . . . and we did enjoy having a day out together in the sunshine.

The weather forecast hints at a month or so of hot, dry sunny days ahead – it looks like the Emergency Frock has been a good investment!



  1. Poor postman - he must have wondered what was going on as you hurtled towards him! Well worth it though as your dress looks fab! Thanks for the trip around the show - I think I would have wilted at the first hurdle. Enjoy the weather x Jane

  2. I'm still rcovering from going on Monday!
    Love the frock and I missed lots when we went, we, too , kept on hiding under trees in the shade to drink yet more water.

  3. Such stamina, I would have been flat out in minutes.

    I, too, would have been tempted by the Pellies, I love them as they are so varied and so easy to look after.

    Love the dress!

  4. Celia, it was amusing to read this post about your very warm visit to Hampton Court after having sent you an email about how the current NYC heat is affecting various plans.

    Glad that you captured that beautiful dress...it looks perfect for summer, cool and stylish!

    You and Cliff were wise to leave your car in leafy Surrey, for that must easier ride to HC. I like your photographs of and comments about the various gardens. I share your opinions. Ages ago, I did manage to visit the Chelsea show, and thought some of the concept show gardens were a bit heavy on concept. In general, I do love conceptual art, but think it is not easy to do well.

    Foxtail blooms always make me smile. I wonder what foxes think of them?


  5. I love your dress escapade - getting changed in the car. The fabric from here looks a bit 'Angie Lewin'.
    I grew some Eremurus, but seem to have lost them. I should have done the same as Monty Don and put one bulb per large pot as they are quite expensive.

  6. So glad your dress turned up! I'm giggling at the thought of trying to swap it over in the car!
    I've tried growing Foxtail Lilies but to no avail, I do love them though. Mine always make a few leaves but then come to nothing else, so no towering spires for me : (


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