For the last few years, we have visited the Chelsea Flower Show in May but this year, when I saw the tickets were £48 (plus the inevitable dreaded booking fee), I really thought this was an awful lot. We decided to try something different and plumped for the RHS flower show at Hampton Court Palace (tickets £29 by the way!) It's a huge site, very different in feel from Chelsea which is all shoe horned into a small space, and was quite a walk just to get in to the flower show. Sadly, the weather was absolutely dreadful! On the other hand, there was no denying that this is a wonderful place with beautiful buildings and gardens at which to marvel everywhere you look. Lucky old Henry VIII!
In we go then, and as I say, this flower show has the luxury of space so there is an awful lot to pack in to a day (not helped when you've spent the whole morning in nearby Creative Quilting in East Molesey!) The show is very spread out, which on the one hand means you do a lot of walking (sometimes in mud thanks to the downpour) but on a distinctly more positive note, the show feels so much less crowded than Chelsea where you do get a bit sick of being elbowed by the Hooray Henrys trying to get to the show gardens! We felt this show was very unpretentious, full of real gardeners.
We wandered past some of the show gardens. Some modern...
We noted that the planting here was a lot more exuberant than Chelsea where everything is "oh so tasteful" and purple and white.
Even where the structure of the garden was modern, the planting was a lot more colourful which was pleasant to see.
I loved elements of this one, the planting was beautiful, lots of cottagey favourites.
Ohhh so cute.
There is also much to shop for at this flower show. There is a whole marquee organised by Country Living which is a bit like visiting one of their shows in miniature.
Outdoors, there was a huge number of stalls with items for sale, from little garden ornaments to the rather sublime investment purchases (thought of you , Louise!)
What also set this show apart was the opportunity to purchase plants. Now I know it may seem ridiculous to say that at a flower show you could buy flowers, but at Chelsea, plants are not for sale, only display, until the grand plant sell-off on the last day. Here at Hampton Court, there were numerous wonderful displays outdoors by nurseries who had whole stands of potted plants for sale at very reasonable prices, too. Equally in the floral pavilion, most of the stall holders had an extensive collection of plants for sale. Everywhere, there were visitors with little trolleys with boxes on, packed full of beautiful plants. Yipee!
I find it very hard nowadays to buy these lovely old fashioned single hollyhocks which have largely been replaced by their frillier double-flowered cousins which do nothing for me. Sadly, despite all I have just said, there were none for sale and the seeds were sold out. Drat!
I bought three dahlia plants for a very reasonable £7.50. How can you not be tempted when you see displays like this...
There was a whole marquee devoted to the subject of grow your own and outside, the vegetables were quite startlingly large, like something out of a Ladybird book story!
Everywhere, the visiting plant nurseries had set up really stunning displays.
There was another marquee where fashion shows were taking place and there were displays of floral art. The theme was the 1960s.
I rather liked this homage to Hilda Ogden!
We saved the best until last.
With a theme of Alice in Wonderland set to the backdrop of all the visiting rose nurseries, this was a delight.
David Austin's stand is always a must for me.
This beautiful rose is "Summer Song" and has an unusual colouring as well as a delightful scent. Need to find a space in the border for that one...
Apuldram Roses also had a beautiful display of some unusual varieties with amazing colours.
Peter Beales' stand is always amazing too and the scent heavenly.
Like I said, there is a lot of ground to cover at this flower show (and lots of purchases to carry) but there are two bandstands and plenty of seats with pretty good food stalls nearby so that you can rest awhile.
And at the end of the day, you can hop onto a nearby river boat to take you and your purchases back to the station. How very civilised!