Worthy Causes at Hampton Court

I am making my way home after a hot and sticky RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

I made an early start this morning, and the Thames path was remarkably serene. I used to cycle between here and Hammersmith when I lived in London, and it still surprises me how peaceful it always feels by the river.


I was ready for a coffee when I arrived, but was temporarily distracted by the first show gardens.

‘A Place to Think’.

Some of the most beautiful planting was in ‘A Place to Think’, designed by James Callicott and Tony Wagstaff. The garden is a collaboration with the Southend Youth Offending Service, and young people in YOS helped to plant this garden as part of their community reparation.  And what planting it is.

Verbena bonariensis, Agastache ‘Blackadder’ and Veronicanastrum ‘Fascination’.

The garden offered a sense of privacy, and space to reflect. I especially loved the two water-filled zinc troughs, with their dark depths, in contrast with the airy planting. Like many of the gardens it was alive with bees, butterflies and the odd damselfly.  This garden gave respect to a group that is often reviled as hopeless, and I found this uplifting.


I also liked this garden because apart from the worthy cause and a redemptive, restorative message I was always going to support, it stands alone as a beautiful space, where design and planting support one another.

The bench with the book reminded me of all the opportunities and support that I have had in my life, which have given me resilience and hope when I have needed it.  That is not true for many young offenders.  For reasons that will become clear later, I am particularly mindful that studies have shown that upwards of 75% of offenders have severe undiagnosed speech and language difficulties.  Imagine struggling with understanding spoken language, expressing yourself clearly.  Both are foundations for literacy.


When I am not gardening, I’m a Speech and Language Therapist, specialising in complex needs. This includes physical and sensory disability.

So I also made a beeline for the RNIB’s Community Garden, designed by Steve Dimmock and Paula Holland.

RNIB Community Garden

As you would expect, this made use of tactile, auditory, olfactory and movement qualities of plants. There was soft furry Stachys, soft, swishing grasses and fragrant Lavender.

RNIB Community Garden: texture, movement and scent.

If I had to make one comment, it would be that visually, the planting was fairly complex. Most visually impaired people have some sight, and benefit from clear blocks of colour, with a clear contrast between light and shade. The planting did include bold blocks of gold Achillea, and there were areas of distinct colour themes, but I wonder if this could have been stronger?

Hydrangea, Achillea, Salvia and Pennisetum, mingling.

I am nitpicking. It was a wonderful garden. And there was a lovely kennel for assistance dogs.

Hydrangea, Achillea, Agastache, Verbena and Japanese Anemones, mingling.

Next was ‘The Limbcare Garden’ designed by Edward Paul. This reflected the physical and emotional journey of amputees. Edward explained that the plants were chosen for their upward-facing blooms. This is not a garden for pity, but for hope.

Hands carved from Ash in the Limbcare Garden.

The beauty of the planting spoke loudest, and this was another garden alive with butterflies and bees.

Echinops with a moth. Look at that proboscis.

There were quiet, private spaces, my favourite being this pool, scented with an archway of Jasmine.



A less subtle garden was The Children with Cancer ‘Mr Happy and Mr Worry Hill’, designed by Emma Reed.


The garden had obvious impact, and was suited to childlike exuberance.


Mr Happy’s garden was planted with warm tones, with Echinacea and Rudbeckia.  The simple shape of the flowers referenced Roger Hargreaves’ drawings.


Mr Worry’s garden had ‘tears’ of running water, and was planted with blue Salvia.


This conceptual garden provides a starting point for talking to children about mixed emotions, though I felt it could have been immersive without the big screens in the spliced centre. This was the most gimmicky garden, but perhaps with good reason.

So which was my favourite garden?

Well actually, not a show garden at all.  There were three gardens that were ‘show features’ rather than ‘show gardens’.  That is, they took longer to create and so could not be entered as show gardens.

They were clearly at an advantage in that they had more time in the construction phase and for the planting to settle.

But I will save these three for my next post, because I don’t want to overwhelm you.

Which is your favourite of these four gardens?  

27 Comments Add yours

  1. bcparkison says:

    Cute Mr. Happy and Mr. Worry Hill *( the houses are cute).I’m always impressed at how good everything looks

    1. Ali says:

      The standard is very high. I don’t know how they do it.

  2. Kath says:

    Thankyou Ali so enjoying wondering around the gardens with you .Thankyou.

    1. Ali says:

      It’s my pleasure, Kath.

  3. Penny Post says:

    The Limbcare garden for me. I could happily sit in that pool surrounded by those plants. I liked the notion of a Place to Think but found the colours too similar for my taste.

  4. photosociology says:

    Great photography -a place to think – people mess up, that’s life. By condemning people we miss out on their qualities, the gifts that they bring to life. By judging them we keep them excluded from the norms of society and social excluding is linked to crime, addiction, poor health, poor mental health and life expectancy.

    So my vote is for a place to think and that these young people have been valued.

    1. Ali says:

      I love this comment. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for including the first photo of the Thames, I could just sit and look at that photo for ages and pretend I was sitting on the bank and looking at the Thames. My husband also said he could imagine himself sitting there on the bank with “a book, and chicken, and chips!”.

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    While the Children’s garden was bright and unusual, I think my favorite was the Thinker’s all purple garden. I agree with your assessment of the Community garden… the eye has no place to settle.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. I hadn’t noticed that, but you are exactly right.

  7. Lovely pictures … and The Thames Path is where I cycle! I like blocks and swathes of plants rather than everything mingling in together because I find it unsettling on the eye. Of all of the pictures, and in the other post too, my favourite is still your garden at home. Yup. Katie x

    1. Ali says:

      Aw, Katie, you gorgeous creature. The Thames Path is such a lovely place to cycle – way nicer than anywhere around here! You take your life into your hands if you cycle in Kent!

      1. Ha! I love Kent though, it’s so beautiful. My mother in law from my first marriage lives in Wye. All the lovely cottages and twisting country lanes. I think I just love most the fields with rolling hills … I can’t do ‘flat’.

      2. Ali says:

        Wye is beautiful. Especially with the Downs and the bluebell woods.

      3. Yes indeed. She used to have two dogs and enjoyed many wonderful walks for hours … bliss

  8. Emma Cownie says:

    I liked the first garden best – it looked like it had been there for years. The Thames looked gorgeous. Many many years ago (almost 20) I used to lived near the Thames in Greenwich. I found London so claustrophobic and the wide expanse of the river saved my sanity. I liked to observe the tides and how they rose and fell, revealing “beaches”. It reminded that even in the midst of that massive city, the ebb and flow of the natural world was still on my doorstep.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s a lovely observation, Emma. I often thought it would be nice to live on a narrowboat there.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Lovely in the summer, I’m not so sure about the winter though!

      2. Ali says:

        Very true. I am not good with cold.

  9. pommepal says:

    I loved the serenity of “a place to think” and the feeling of peace and privacy. A beautiful place to relax with a book

  10. I liked the first garden best. It truly looked like a peaceful place to sit and ponder life. I too have a heart for young offenders after reading a book called, “Tattoos on the Heart”. It made me so aware of the homelives of the offenders and all they have to deal with in life just to survive their childhoods. A book so worth reading.

    1. Ali says:

      I heard someone on the radio recently saying that we are all just two disasters away from homelessness, and this really made me think.

  11. Clare Pooley says:

    I liked the first garden best too. Young Offenders do all the upkeep in the churchyards of redundant churches and make them look wonderful! The RNIB’s garden is too ‘busy’ and there are too many colours and textures. Your moth isn’t a moth it’s a Small Skipper butterfly; a female I think. I hope you don’t mind me telling you. They do look more like moths than butterflies.

  12. Absolutely gorgeous! I wish I was there…me and my hubby and daughter are all Anglophiles! You do great tea and gardens, two of our favorite things. I could be happy spending time in any of the gardens, but I love the community garden with the dog bowl…as you may have guessed, I love my doxies!

    1. Ali says:

      A garden in incomplete without a dog or two!

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