I’ve always thought the Hampton Court Flower Show makes a great day out, in a wonderful setting, for gardening enthusiasts but that the Chelsea Flower Show is the one to go to for cutting edge garden design and inspiration. However, I found Chelsea disappointing this year while my visit to the Hampton show yesterday was fantastic.
Of course it helped that the sun was shining brilliantly, the temperature had soared into the 30s, and my daughter was with me – a mother and daughter outing. Nicola had driven down from Worcestershire the evening before and then it was a simple bus ride to Hampton Court the next day on the R68 from Twickenham.
The weather was so hot I’d received a warning email from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the morning – bring water, suncream and sensible shoes for walking on the uneven ground. I dug a sunhat out of the back of my wardrobe – I rarely wear hats but was forced to buy this one at the Hampton show 2 years ago because of the hot sun; it was going to get a 2nd outing.
It was a Members only day – it opens to the public on Thursday – but don’t be fooled into thinking that means quiet. There were a lot of people. But Hampton Court copes with crowds better than Chelsea; there’s so much more space and it’s possible to wander off piste a bit into quiet, shaded areas when you fancy a rest.
As soon as we entered the show we were immediately met by the sight of glorious colour; wonderful stalls where you can buy plants.
We wanted to buy a couple of things but decided to do it on the way out as we were so near the entrance/exit still. Lots of people bring plastic trolleys – which you can also buy there – but neither of us fancied dragging a trolley round all day and they can only hold a limited number of plants anyway.
We moved further into the show. Nicola had wanted to look for Rhino Greenhouses and we came across them almost straight away. She and Rachael had seen them at another show recently and had decided if there was a good show offer at Hampton then Nicola would order one. There was – and she did!
We crossed a bridge to the main side where the show Gardens were, the rose marquee, the cook & grow theatre with free talks by well-known gardening and cooking personalities.
We loved the rose marquee full of gorgeous perfume and the most glorious roses, many quite spectacularly special. Nicola had a long chat with one stall holder about how to deal with the roses she’d inherited in her new garden. He was so helpful and friendly, it was great.
Then we grabbed a coffee and cake to take into the Cook & Grow theatre to listen to the brilliant Alys Fowler talk about growing salads all year round, in decent sized garden to window boxes. Nicola took lots of notes and we were inspired enough to buy some seeds.
Afterwards we sought out the show gardens and found we really did like the winning show garden – Viking Cruises Garden – best. The planting was beautiful.
There were other lovely gardens too.
Then it was time for lunch and we bought a delicious pitta wrap full of falafel, hummus and salad from one of the many food stalls dotted about the show.
We found a shady spot near the bandstand where live jazz plays all day, which was wonderfully relaxing and entertaining.
We took a quick look in the floral marquee, ordered the greenhouse, bought some plants and made a move home. The show was open for a few more hours, and there was so much to see we did miss things, but we’d been there for about 4 hours and walked enough in the hot sun and it seemed a good time to call it a day. We’d had a brilliant time and it had been a perfect and lovely outing.