The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
At the world's largest flower exhibition you can admire not only new plant varieties and arranged bouquets, but also fountains, feeders, pinwheels, statues, lamps, candlesticks, garden houses and inspirational garden models
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the largest flower show of its kind in the world. In 1990, it took place for the first time and in order to attract people to a distant borough on the banks of the Thames, special trains were dispatched from the Waterloo Station in central London. The display immediately drew huge crowds.
In 1993, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), a charity, whose task is to collect information about plants and promote gardening, decided to offer help to the organizers. While their most prestigious exhibition, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, takes place in a limited parcel, in Hampton Court Palace it was plenty of space and huge potential. Nowadays, you can see there not only the latest varieties of beautiful flowers (competing for prizes), but also learn how to grow your own fruit, vegetables and spices and what to prepare from them. The experts will give you tailored advice on how to create a garden you desire. You can browse craftsmen and artists stalls and search for tools and decorations, and maybe you will get inspired by innovative conceptual gardens made by well-known landscape architects.
During the six days there are many lectures, demonstrations, workshops and courses, there is no time for boredom. The locals are also looking forward to the last day when the plant sell-off begins…
The English love their gardens. The rural idyll is for them associated with the words subtlety, harmony, orderliness. Unlike parks for French noblemen whose aim was to radiate magnificence and impress visitors (like Versailles for Louis XIV), the English estates were supposed to serve as a mental refreshment.
The huge campaign “Dig for Victory” set up during World War II by the British Ministry of Agriculture probably also played a role. At the time of the blockade and food rationing, residents were encouraged to transform parks, playgrounds, and bombed areas into gardens and grow their own food.
I went to Hampton by boat from Richmond. It was a nice trip and I got to know a whole new part of London, but it took an hour (while returning by train only 15 minutes). So, your choice.
There were about a thousand stalls in the Hampton Palace area and they contained everything that could be used in the garden. Fountains, feeders, pinwheels, statues, watering cans, hats, wine glass holders, lamps, candlesticks, garden houses ... a million of great ideas! Everything was amazing and tasteful; I was stunned. In one day it was impossible to see it all.
Near the entrance, there were Conceptual gardens focused on the seven deadly sins. Nothing gigantic; but fascinating. For example, a small fuming and erupting volcano amidst yellow-orange flowers represented an Explosion of Uncontrollable Wrath; a can of spilled candies embodied Gluttony and a waste of food. Peep show in the greenhouse depicted Lust - because the flowers are like prostitutes who offer themselves to bees.
I was captivated by the photogenic burgundy lake with cranberries - I learned that in America, the main picking method of this fruit is wet harvesting. The night before, farmers flood the bogs with water; the next day, they stir it up with water reels. The cranberries are loosened from the vines and float on the surface. The growers then corral them, load them into trucks and deliver them to a processor.
The assortment of decorations was unbelievable. I liked romantic pictures by Susan Entwistle, fabulous glass flowers by Carrie Anne Funnell (although I'm afraid if I installed them in front of the house, they would disappear very quickly!) and I fell in love with unique statues by Susan Long, dressed in specially impregnated colorful clothes.
Those who bought something bigger could use the help of carriers (when the guys had nothing to do, they slept in the wheelbarrows :)
There were plenty of dining options in the area, either in a restaurant or outside in the sunshine. In one of the pavilions they sold fruits, vegetables, spices and everything that could be made of it. In another one some celebrities gave lectures on plants that can be grown at home and inspiring workshops in cooking. One of them was Mary Berry, a British food writer and television presenter, whose recipes I love (yum, I have two of her books and I can recommend them). Such a pity I didn't meet her...
I had a homemade apple pie and bought several divine sauces and, unexpectedly, also original cheeses. By the way, British cheeses are the best-kept secret of the country! At least I didn't know much about them, and so I was quite surprised. Later I bought more in the supermarket and I love them ever since: Blue stilton with blue veins (similar to Roquefort), Davidstow cheddar with sunblush cherry tomatoes (divine!), white stilton with lemon and lime, spicy Jamaican style jerk chilli and garlic cheddar and Blacksticks blue (actually, yellow thanks to the coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree; it is creamy smooth and its taste reminds me of a duck liver. It deserves a Nobel Prize!).
Well, this can also be learned at the English flower exhibition... :)
In the Floral Marquee, there were mainly plants in pots and bouquets. Breathtaking! I especially liked small, glaring orchids and roses (with names like Just For Your Eyes, The Mermaid, The White Cloud, The Purple Tiger...).
But I didn't manage to see it all. As it was the last day of the show, at 4 pm the bell rang and the plant sell-off began. Crazed crowds took the pavilions by attack and jumped after everything that was not nailed! People had carts where they threw all the most beautiful and often medal-winning pieces. I envy them; I could hardly travel with pots…