As I said in Worthy Causes at Hampton Court, my favourite three gardens were not show gardens.
The ‘RHS Grow Your Own’ was my out-and-out favourite garden. Whilst it was largely about food production, there was delectable companion planting.
I suspect this rather stunning living wall might need daily watering in summer…
This garden had more ‘take home’ ideas than any other in the show.
I have a thing for Moroccan blue, and so loved this bean support. Though in a real garden, you have to rotate crops, so this would have to move around.
We have a dolls’ house that has been used to house mice in the garage. I have wondered if it could be a nesting box…
Out of all the gardens I looked around today, this felt like the most real garden, with workaday spaces.
I think it appealed to me because it reminded me of our garden, Stevie’s and mine, where flowers and food combine.
This is my third time at Hampton Court. The first time was when my eldest daughter was nearly a year old, thirteen years ago. Stevie and I have since worked out that he too was there in that year. I wonder how many times our paths crossed? But we weren’t ready to meet yet.
And so I walked around this garden reflecting on the garden we have made together, and this made me feel blessed.
This was a garden with celebrities. Raymond Blanc, because he collaborated on it, Jekka McVicar, presumably checking out the herbs, and more randomly, Bill Bailey, leaning on the gate.
There were others around, but I conducted myself with poise. Until I found myself walking behind my absolute favourite garden writer, my guru and goddess combined, Carol Klein. I remembered one of the writers I follow on Twitter saying she has never met a writer who objects to being stopped in public to be told their work is fabulous. So I did. I totally gushed. Carol Klein is as lovely in person as she is on telly.
I spent a couple of hours in the Floral Marquee and Festival of Roses. I’ll post my top finds tomorrow. I was really really hot at this point, and had to spend some time coming to under the shade of a tree.
I spent some more time meandering around show gardens (this too will have to wait). I decided I was all showed-out, and started to make my way to the exit. And then this happened:
That’s Piet Oudolf, prairie planting designer, and the featured designer for this year’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. He’s chatting with Nick Bailey, another favourite garden writer. I’d forgotten about Piet Oudolf’s meadow! So out came the camera again.
Achillea ‘Terracotta’ was one of the plants of this year’s show, but no one does it like Piet Oudolf. Achillea is one of a select few plants that provides ‘horizontals’ to contrast with the ‘verticals’ of Veronica, Salvia and Loosestrife.
The colour, texture and flower-form combinations were lovely. There were repeating patterns in the different areas of planting, with swathes and ribbons of perennials.
It was refreshingly breezy by this point, which was a blessed relief. Rather than being in an oven, we were now at least in a fan oven.
I think just about everything was bee-friendly. Here are some Scabious (Pincushion Flower) wafting and waving. The seedheads are just left to do their thing.
Eryngium provided spiky sparks of electric blue.
Whilst its neighbours swished, the alliums stood quite still. Though their heads did explode.
He makes it all look so effortless.
There were textures galore.
And a few surprises here and there.
I swayed with it for a while. And then packed up my camera again.
And then I found ‘From Battlefield to Butterflies’. This ‘garden’ has been made over the last three months, to commemorate the Hampton Court Gardeners who died in the Great War. I took out my camera.
This is a completely immersive experience. You enter into the trenches via an Officer’s living quarters.
All materials are original. This space would have held a bed, but there wasn’t enough room to fit this and allow visitors to pass through, so you have to imagine it.
And then on to the trenches. There is rusted barbed wire, twisted bits of metal and blasted trees.
But this is not a static depiction of war. Rather it is the regeneration after war. So the grass begins to grow again.
You start to rise up. You see ‘over the top’.
There are wildflowers, and grasses setting seed.
The path winds up out of the trench.
The bomb craters start to resemble ponds.
The site is still littered with debris.
There is a ragged beauty.
And a reminder.
This was probably the most emotional garden I have been in. I am glad I went when it was quiet.
And then it really was time to pack up my camera and leave.