I’m not sure which category of the blog this fits into … but I had such a lovely time it’s nice to write about it. And I did travel all the way down to the end of the line on the R68 bus for the first time, which goes from Kew to Hampton Court, via the centre of Twickenham where I got on. On a clear run I expect to do the journey from home to Hampton Court by car in about 10 minutes. The bus goes all round the houses, of course. Never A to B on a bus but A to C, D, E, F and then B. And it took 26 minutes. But it was nice. It’s such a lovely sunny day and I could look about and admire the lovely architecture in the Hampton area. Hampton itself is so pretty, the High Street leading down to the River Thames and then the bus turned left past David Garrick’s house and Bushy Park before reaching the palace.
The outing was a late birthday treat from my oldest friend, Nina. We were best friends at school, so when I say ‘old’ I mean ‘the longest’ rather than she’s very old! I’ve been to the Chelsea Flower Show many times but never the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Many people had told me it’s much nicer: less crowded because there’s much more space; it’s more relaxed and you can buy plants to take home. Now I’ve been I completely agree. It doesn’t have the same outstanding show gardens as Chelsea, but it’s a much more pleasant day out. Chelsea is frenetic: a lot of hustling and pushing your way through crowds to see anything. You come home exhausted. Today I came home feeling I’d had a day’s holiday. Well, I had!
There were stalls selling all kinds of things. Everything is laid out nicely and well marked. Except the loos. We did have a bit of trouble finding the toilets! One of the first things we did was go into a butterfly house. There were wonderful, amazingly beautiful butterflies flying around, settling on plants and sometimes settling on people.
We moved on to see some of the show gardens. This is one of the best bits for me. It’s always surprising and interesting to see what garden designers manage to do with a small plot; the size of a small garden. I have a small London garden so I’m always particularly keen to see what marvels I could be doing in my own space. I remember the first time I went to Chelsea, I came home and started digging and changing things in the garden immediately. So these shows can light up your creative side.
We saw a fun ‘cacoon’ which you can hang in your garden and tuck yourself away in as it gently swings round.
Around this time we passed by a large cafe/restaurant and decided to stop for an early – 12 noon – lunch while it wasn’t too crowded. It was sandwiches or boxed salads and we both went for a mozzarella and grilled vegetable salad which while not amazingly exciting was fresh and we were able to sit outside in the sun to eat it and chat for a while. Relaxation was the name of the day! We moved on into a large marquee that showcased roses. The gorgeous perfume of roses greeted us as we entered. We saw some really beautiful ones.
There were also some fun creations from flowers; kind of flower sculptures.
Then we moved into the edibles marquee.This was obviously of particular interest to the Single Gourmet Traveller! There were magnificent garlics.
And capsicum peppers – a fantastic purple one that from a distance I thought was an aubergine till I got closer, because of the colour. I bought a purple-coloured chilli plant at the stall to bring home. And I found a stall selling Sicilian olive oil. I stopped and said to Nina that I recognised the labelling; I’d eaten somewhere serving it recently. Oh yes! Ruben’s Refettorio! It turned out the stallholder knew Igor and they were friends. I bought some oil and a pot of Sicilian orange blossom honey.
There were plenty of other stalls. Riverford had a stall advertising their vegetable and fruit boxes. There were cheese stalls, chutney stalls and a huge variety of edibles. From here were moved into a floral hall – another glorious hit of the senses with the perfume as we walked in and the magnificent colours. There were all kinds of things. A huge display of lavender.
Some pots of fabulous ornithogalums.
There were some pretty violas with beautiful scents and Nina bought some seeds. By some minor miracle we bumped into Annie and a friend in here. I knew Annie was going but we’d decided it was too complicated to meet up, so it wasn’t a total surprise but still pretty amazing in the large crowds that we did actually bump into each other. Nina and I then moved outside and found a stall selling Purbeck ice cream. We sat enjoying this little treat on a bench in the shade for a while before heading home. I carefully carried my chilli plant back with me, putting it on a sunny windowsill in my kitchen once home, as per instructions.
Hopefully I’ll have a nice crop of chillies to add to my cooking. I will anyway remember the lovely outing and now I know how great the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is, I’m sure I’ll be going back next year.