If Chelsea is the grown-up, sophisticate when it comes to flower shows then RHS Hampton Court Palace is definitely the fun-loving younger sister.
The atmosphere is more relaxed: there are fewer celebs, last minute preparations and even parties of schoolchildren being shown around on press day.
The show gardens more accessible both in terms of design – these are gardens you can imagine making – and literally, thanks to Hampton’s generous site size compared with the space restrictions at Chelsea.
And when it comes to making you stop and think this year’s Hampton has the edge for me.
Aside from Paul Hervey-Brookes’ gold medal-winning design that drew universal admiration – and not just for the very cute dogs from The Dogs Trust that kept visiting – there were several other gardens that caught my eye.
I loved the simplicity of idea and execution of the World Vision garden. Undulating ribbons of green represent the difficult lives of children caught up in war or disaster-hit countries while the delicate wild meadow planting underneath gave a glimpse of hope.
The Cancer Research UK Life Garden takes garden design right into the 21st century with a virtual garden for visitors alongside the more traditional planting of echinacea, hemerocallis and alliums.
Don the special headset and you are transported into a bigger version of this garden, as I discovered, complete with birdsong and the sound of bees. Each of the 100,000 flowers pictured represents one of the legacies that have helped the charity.
It was a novel twist on the usual garden experience and great fun – apart from the sensation of being high up above a sunken area, as I discovered when I ‘looked’ down. Not great when you don’t do heights.
My favourite among the smaller gardens, was the Drought Garden, which won the well-deserved Best in Show for this category.
It was a clever mix of drought tolerant planting and wildlife friendly features, such as a bee hive, and well within the capabilities and budget of the average gardener; designer Steve Dimmock used reclaimed stone and old pebbles for the hard landscaping.
Other easily copied ideas included a herb-enclosed seat in the Witan Investment Trust Global Growth Garden, which also featured colourful vegetables among the planting. Who says borders can’t be productive as well as pretty.
And the Wildfowl and Wetland Garden showed how simply using the run-off from our homes could help stop flooding and provide an attractive wildlife friendly element to our gardens.
Here are some other things I liked.
There was plenty of colour.
Some of the gardens were also very colourful.
The Rose Festival is always a highlight.
‘Scent from Heaven’ was announced as the 2016 Rose of the Year.
Peter Beales Roses’ stand had a ruin at its centre.
There were also some lovely clematis. On their own . . .
. . . or mixed with roses.
This penstemon ‘Craigieburn Taffeta’ from Green Jjam Nurseries caught my eye.
Vehicles were a popular addition to displays.
Here, a Fiat 500 was used on Italian seed firm Franchi’s display.
There was water in a lot of gardens.