Hampton Court reflections

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.

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Dogs both real and sculpted stole the show on Paul Hervey-Brookes’ garden

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.

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The Squire’s 80th Anniversary garden would be easy to achieve
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Simple colours and design make the Inner City Grace garden easy to copy

And when it comes to making you stop and think this year’s Hampton has the edge for me.

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Abandoned lifejackets on the Border Control garden are an unsettling reminder of the fate of many refugees

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.

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The Dogs Trust garden won gold
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One of the many dogs on Paul Hervey-Brookes’ garden

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.

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The World Vision Garden was a favourite

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.

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Visitors will be able to book a virtual tour of the Cancer Research UK garden

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.

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I loved the colours of The Drought Garden

My favourite among the smaller gardens, was the Drought Garden, which won the well-deserved Best in Show for this category.

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A beehive was just one of the wildlife friendly features

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.

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Herbs around a bench on the Witan garden

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.

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Veg added colour to the borders

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.

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The WWT garden won a Best in Show award

Here are some other things I liked.

There was plenty of colour.

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Dahlias on Pheasant Acre Plants’ stand
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Orchids from Dave Parkinson Plants added some zing

Some of the gardens were also very colourful.

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The New Horizons garden was inspired by Art Nouveau designs

The Rose Festival is always a highlight.

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The scent of roses filled the marquee

‘Scent from Heaven’ was announced as the 2016 Rose of the Year.

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Peter Beales Roses’ stand had a ruin at its centre.

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There were also some lovely clematis. On their own . . .

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. . . or mixed with roses.

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This penstemon ‘Craigieburn Taffeta’ from Green Jjam Nurseries caught my eye.

hampton courtVehicles were a popular addition to displays.

hampton courtHere, a Fiat 500 was used on Italian seed firm Franchi’s display.

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There was water in a lot of gardens.

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The Viking Cruises Scandinavian Garden
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A floating display of blooms
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Reflections in the Dogs Trust garden