Roses, butterflies and how to garden in the face of climate change are just some of the features at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
There are nearly 100 specialist nurseries in the Floral Marquee – six of them, ranging from cacti to daylillies, new to the show – and there will be four new roses launched, including ‘Lovestruck’, the 2018 Rose of the Year.
Wildlife is a major theme and the popular Butterfly Dome will be surrounded by a wildflower meadow, with plants that provide food for butterflies and caterpillars.
Naturally, top of my list of ‘must-sees’ is Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes’ garden for show sponsors Viking Cruises.
Just weeks after winning Best in Show at the new RHS Chatsworth, Paul is making his third appearance at RHS Hampton; he won gold and best in show in 2012 for ‘Discovering Jordan’ and gold last year with a garden for the Dogs Trust.
He’s creating a small, urban garden for a couple who have travelled widely and incorporated ideas from those journeys into their plot. These include a triple arched feature wall based on Rome’s Arch of Constantine, a large Malaysian pot and paving that has an arabesque pattern.
The planting will also echo their travels with motherwort, found growing along the Danube, Italian alder and a species of mint from the Lebanon.
Herbs grown by Jekka McVicar will be woven into sweeping mixed borders in a white, yellow, mauve and blue colour scheme.
“Being influenced by travel is at the core of English gardens historically and this modern day interpretation is no different,” says Paul. “I hope people will see the various different influences and feel excited by that exchange of knowledge and ideas.”
Other show gardens include Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer’s design for Blind Veterans UK, which explores the work of the charity and the sense of community it provides, represented by a willow vine sculpture that wraps around the garden.
Emma Bailey looks at dealing with depression in ‘On the Edge’ and the benefits of a sensory garden for children with autism is explored by Adam White and Andree Davies in the Zoflora Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden.
Designer Charlie Bloom is celebrating the people within horticulture with a garden built on co-operation and gifts.
‘Colour Box’ is being built with no financial sponsor, relying instead on donations of time and products from the horticulture industry following a social media appeal.
“I wanted to create something that credited ‘the team’ and not the designer or the sponsor’s wants,” explains Charlie. “I asked the different trades involved to be an equal part of the process and given appropriate credit, not forgotten sub categories.”
Bold, bright planting and limited hard landscaping are the key features of a garden that Charlie describes as “a celebration of people helping people”.
Tackling climate change
‘Gardens for a Changing World’ is a new category for 2017, designed to show how gardening is becoming more sustainable in response to changing weather.
Among the entries are a natural solution to flood prevention by designer Will Williams using trees and leaky dams and another by debut RHS designer Rhiannon Williams showing how to manage rainwater in a garden with storage systems and planting.
Perhaps the most unusual will be ‘The Power to Make a Difference’ by Joe Francis, which will have an ice block at the centre. The ice is intended to melt during the show, filling a pool below.
Tom Massey has interpreted the title as “finding sanctuary in a storm” in his garden for Perennial.
The charity provides support for people in the horticulture industry who are facing difficulties and the garden shows movement from chaos to sanctuary with the planting colours from reds and orange through to blues and greens echoing the journey.
I will be heading for Martyn Wilson’s design ‘Brownfield – Metamorphosis’. Worcester-based Martyn made his show garden debut at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in 2014, having studied at the Cotswold Gardening School, and designs gardens for private clients across the Cotswolds.
Inspired by post-industrial gardens, such as New York’s High Line, his garden looks at what happens when a former industrial site is reclaimed by nature.
“What interested me initially was the changing nature of urban landscapes which are so often are in state of flux,” says Martyn. “There’s the process of demolition and reconstruction but between the two, before building work starts, you often find nature moves back in and a new, temporary landscape is created. “
Twisted steel monolithic structures suggesting decaying industry will be set against a mix of plants, including many that naturally self-seed on brownfield sites, such as ferns and grasses.
There’s also Cotswold interest in the category that sees designers push the boundaries of what constitutes a garden.
Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens have joined forces with wildlife charity Tusk to sponsor a conceptual garden that aims to highlight the illegal trade in ivory.
Designed by Mark Whyte, it will feature an arch of 200 tusks – the average daily tally of elephants killed by poachers in Africa.
Visitors will walk through the arch to the sounds of the African savannah, there will be African-style planting, and the bones of an elephant at one end will symbolise the risk to the elephant population.
Finally, the World Gardens will take visitors to Oregon, Northern Spain, Charleston and Florida.
• RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from July 4-9, 2017. For more details, see the RHS website.