Yesterday was spent wandering around the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show - and amazingly the rain held off (although the strange yellow ball that is supposed to appear during the day time also failed to appear)!
I was a first time visitor to Hampton Court and it put me in mind of Tatton, as opposed to Chelsea, with a broader range of things to see and do. However I was there primarily for the gardens and so here are my thoughts on what was on display:
Principally I felt that the gardens at Hampton Court were generally delineated between what were more the horticultural artistic installations (the Show and Conceptual Gardens) and gardens which are more achievable for the visitor to imagine in their own garden (the Low Cost High Impact and the Summer Gardens).
On an artistic level, Anoushka Feiler designed the Best in Show called 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (shown above). From planting perspective this was finely executed and reminded me strongly of the naturalistic touch so popular at Chelsea this year, as did the vertical plantings on the sides of the bridge.
One of my favourite Show Gardens was 'Contemporary Contemplation' designed by OneAbode Ltd. Simplicity of green and white planting (Buxus, Hostas, Agapanthus, Stipa tenuissima, Betula utilis and Ferns (Asplenium, Polystichum and Blechnum)) merged with the ipe decking interspersed with white metal steps, to create a restful yet contemporary space and one which was much more about the garden than the concept.
However this can be juxtaposed against the 'Las Mariposas' conceptual garden by Robert Kennett. With its Amnesty International message on the plight of women in Nicaragua at its core, the simple meadow planting of cornflowers and grasses contrasted superbly with the barbed wire fence and the pink butterfly house at its centre, capturing and holding the viewer.
I also liked 'Uprising' by Daniel Shea in the Conceptual category which was inspired by the London riots and which showed how clever planting can transform a sparse, concrete-filled space.
On the other side of the coin, there were the gardens which are more closely aligned to what is achievable in a residential garden. The Low Cost High Impact Gardens were without a doubt the most popular there with hoards of people seeking to get a view of them (as a designer the linkage of the design to a cost was particularly interesting and these gardens are examples I can use when talking about the cost of building a garden to clients in the future).
I liked 'A Compromising Situation' by Twigs Gardens (built on a £10,000 budget) - which also received a People's Choice Award. The two levels, the lush planting at the front and the wooden edging to the paving (which complimented the colour of the paving) were all well executed. Sparse planting at the rear of the garden possibly led to the award of Silver Gilt rather than a Gold.
Also of note was 'Our First Home, Our First Garden', by Nilufer Danis, using reclaimed scaffold boards as the key material within a sunken garden which allowed the planting, of contrasting blues and yellows, to encase the garden's users. At a cost of £7,000 this again shows people what is - and what is not - possible on a small budget.
The Best Summer Garden was awarded to 'The Landform Garden' (Landform also built 'Our First Home, Our First Garden'). Again the sunken garden motif was applied but this showed what was possible with a bigger budget. I particularly liked the use of colour - the matching grey of the fence, sail frame and of the limestone paving, the earthen tones of the sail, rendered wall and much of the planting as well as the predominantly green shade planting underneath the Betula nigra.
Within the Summer Garden category I also liked 'Falling Leaves' by Elizabeth Seymour. Taking inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, this garden (again on different levels) is modernist with clean, crisp lines softened by the mostly green planting. It reminded me of Adam Frost's garden at Chelsea in 2011 (also inspired by Fallingwater).
They were the highlights of the day for me, with plenty to inspire. There was also a range of activities for the rest of the family whilst I looked at gardens: apart from the myriad of shopping opportunities there was a fantastic band in the bandstand - Baraka playing world music and reggae - and John Craven reminiscing about vets and David Bellamy in the Grapevine tent. Overall it was a day enjoyed by all....
matt haddon gardens (based in East Yorkshire between Driffield and Beverley and designing across Yorkshire)
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