As a newbie gardener, I have looked on longingly at the coverage of Chelsea and Hampton Court the past few years. This year I swooned over Chelsea thinking next year, next year, but then - be still my beating heart! - we were invited to the RHS Hampton Court Press Day on Monday. Woohoo!! We arrived as guests of Olivier Blanc (son of Raymond) and his Henri le Worm garden team, and enjoyed their wonderful fruit and vegetable-packed garden and lovely Raymond's cookery demonstration (more on that later), but got to explore the rest of the show too. I parked Steve and the girls in the children's area and headed off to the show gardens, conceptual gardens, and world gardens for a swoon...
The beautiful Encore: A Music Lover's Garden was one of my favourites, full of sensuous curves, an intriguing contrast between industrial and natural materials, the trickle of water, and beautiful yellow and blue planting which challenged your thinking and expectations by mixing native and stylised plants, all bee-friendly. Just gorgeous.
|Sophia came back round with me for a bit, and loved this one too|
The garden is inspired by Handel's Water Music and the water rill and pathway follow the path of the Thames as it flows towards Hampton Court Palace. The mini amphitheatre below has been created for the purpose of playing and enjoying listening to music. A recording plays in the background, blending exquisitely with the sound of the water flowing gently. The garden won a Silver Gilt medal.
Much has been written and shown of the Turkish Ministry of Culture & Tourism's Garden of Paradise, and it is certainly in keeping with this week's weather. It won the award for best World Garden and by default a Gold medal and it is lovely, but for me it rather 'does what it says on the tin' and isn't particularly exciting or innovative. Beautiful and predictable is OK though, of course!
The other World Gardens included the delightful Sri Lanka Tranquility Garden designed by Bicton College garden design students. An Eastern treat of a garden with vibrant planting it was a lovely place to take a couple of minutes out.
The Spirit of the Aegean garden was a delightful reminder of Greece's beauty and loveliness amongst all the current doom and gloom. The bright Aegean blue wall is just stunning, and the sun brought out the very best in this garden full of bougainvillea, oleander and lavender. It won Gold.
The Normandy Impressionist garden was very popular with visitors when we were there, but the cheese, sausage and wine on offer may have helped...
Squire's Garden Centres Urban Oasis is an achievable design which was inspired by their customers' desire for space to relax with welcoming seating areas, and a hope to attract wildlife to the garden. I liked how it was just a 'normal' garden that we could all enjoy. It won Silver-gilt.
Love this idea of encouraging a lawn space to become a mini meadow to attract wildlife.
The show garden created for the charity Scotty's Little Soldiers which works with bereaved military children. The Bronze medal-winning garden focusses on memories of the lost parent, with a lovely memory tree, showing how a tree is a constant in the garden just as a parent is the constant in a child's life. The rill represents the child's life journey. With strong symbolism, textures and planting, this impressive garden is a fitting memorial to life and loss.
|The memory tree with messages in its branches|
The World Vision garden is inspired by the breathtaking beauty of Cambodia, with translucent orange rods representing rice paddy fields, whilst dark water cuts through illustrating the fear of hunger that many vulnerable children in Cambodia live with. Many survive on just two meagre bowls of rice a day, but World Vision seeks to bring hope to the region.
Ann-Marie Powell's Gold medal-winning garden for Macmillan is a cocoon of green calm with soft, almost woodland planting; a feeling of light and reflection; and a large egg-shaped, plant-encased seating space. It is lovely, and I liked the contrasting textures and the simple palette of white and green, with odd splashes of brights.
There was a similar seating cocoon in the City Twitchers garden, this time constructed from wicker and with little cut-outs for birdwatching.
The Wellbeing of Women summer garden has the kind of planting I like, and a strong palette of purple, blue and white representing the charity's logo. A very pretty space.
I loved the philosophy around the colourful and interesting A Garden for Every Retiree, with sumptuous planting, a mini veg patch, areas for the grandchildren, and a rather glorious shed!
The garden that has stayed with me most is the Malawi Garden from African Vision Malawi. Contrasting more sustainable, natural planting with the almost sterile cultivation of a single non-native crop, it strives to promote the practice of sustainable planting to build resilient communities and combat famine. A boxed infinity mirror at the garden’s centre creates the appearance of fields of maize stretching into the distance, forcing the observer to question whether food security can be achieved by relying on a single crop. The alternatives shown in the key planting areas surrounding the illusion show how plants can co-exist so that all thrive, and maintain the quality of the soil for future cultivation. It is a stunning statement, and a worthy Gold medal winner.
There is, of course, so much more to see, including the intriguing tented Synaesthesia garden which I couldn't do justice in photographs. If you can get to Hampton Court this week, go. It's wonderful!