CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

How to win a gold medal at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 19:48 26 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:45 20 February 2013

How to win a gold medal at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

How to win a gold medal at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

A crucial date in any gardener's calendar, the world-famous Hampton Court Palace Flower Show takes place every July. Here, Tinx Newton speaks to one of the RHS judges, Andrew Wilson, who lives in Surrey himself, to find how to win a gold medal

When it comes to gardening, we are fortunate in Surrey to have not only an abundance of beautiful gardens to explore, but also one of the worlds best flower shows to excite and inspire us.


Always high on any gardeners list, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which takes place against the spectacular backdrop of Henry VIIIs glorious royal palace, runs this year from Tuesday July 5 to Sunday July 10. Set along the borders of the palaces stunning Long Water, its no surprise really that the festival, now in its 21st year, has become one of our largest and most popular annual flower shows.


Run by the Royal Horticultural Society, the event attracts a staggering 160,000 visitors each year and has become as internationally famous as the Chelsea Flower Show. However, Hampton Court has a strong identity of its own and is often considered a bit more alternative. This year, with a record number of entries in the Conceptual Gardens category, the blend of art and horticulture will be particularly evident.

The judging process
The remarkable standard of entries in all categories certainly presents a demanding job for the judging panel who begin their selection process the winter before the show.


The same process applies to all RHS shows, beginning with a detailed form submitted by the garden designer, which gives a clear statement of their intent, explains Andrew Wilson, award-winning garden designer and judge for the RHS show gardens.


At this point, the judges have to consider, what will the garden deliver at the show? Remember, these are show gardens; not domestic gardens. After the selection has been made, the chosen entrants develop their designs and have three weeks before the show opens to construct and plant out their gardens.


Once the gardens are in place, an assessment panel looks at the entries in great detail before making their recommendations to the judges. The official judging then takes place on the Monday before the show opens. The marking criteria includes allowances for originality and the level of ambition undertaken by the designer.


"There is no limit to the number of medals that can be awarded in each category any number of gardens or exhibits can be awarded the much-coveted gold medal, says Andrew. Each exhibit is judged on its own merit and they are not compared to each other.


A sense of theatre is deemed important in the show gardens, and the judges constantly refer back to the original idea submitted to ensure the brief has been adhered to. In this way, a mainly objective view is gathered; not just a subjective response.


The final stage in the judging is undertaken by the moderator panel who look at all the gardens and decide if the judging seems fair.


Andrew, who has been judging RHS gardens for over 15 years, observes how the style of gardens has changed, particularly with the growth of conceptual designs at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.


Conceptual gardens can breathe new life into a show, he says. As judges, we need to study the thinking behind these designs, and not just judge them at face value. These represent the pure aspect of design, and are not just a load of pseudo mumbo-jumbo. People have really warmed to the idea of conceptual gardens at the shows and there is a financial incentive for the selected designers who get support from the RHS to build their design.


Another important theme these days is the importance of sustainability and bio-diversity and this is taken into consideration too.


It is certainly very much in our minds, says Andrew. It has to be a good thing that people are not encouraged to force plants any more, and plans for planting that wouldnt work ecologically or in reality are always questioned. Designers are much more aware of saving energy, working more sustainably and using naturalistic combinations.


Roots in Surrey soil
Andrew, who has lived in Chertsey for over 25 years and designed a range of gardens across the county, has his feet firmly embedded in Surrey soil.


We are blessed with a fairly benign climate in this corner of Britain, he says. People associate Surrey with Gertrude Jekyll and the archetypal glorious English garden, but the lack of rain in recent years and warmer weather is causing real concern.


We really have to re-think our more traditional planting palettes and seriously consider using plants that can tolerate drought. I always advise gardeners to buy from local nurseries whose plants have most likely been propagated in similar soil conditions to their own gardens.


Many Surrey gardens have been given the Andrew Wilson touch, including Foxhills country club, in Ottershaw, and the stunning Rose Garden at Savill Garden near Virginia Water, which is part of the Royal Landscape. The design creates an intense sensory experience as the deep aroma of the roses naturally rises and visitors can enjoy the perfume and stunning views across the garden from a walk-way that appears to float above the Rose Garden.


But as the flower show season comes into full swing, Mr Wilson must put his designers hat aside for a while and dig out his favourite panama that he likes to wear when judging.
Even though Ive been doing this for many years, I still get very excited about judging, he says. I love Hampton Court Palace Flower Show it very much has its own personality and despite its popularity, it remains a relaxed, friendly affair.


This year, I am particularly looking forward to the conceptual gardens Surreys Tom Harfleet always delivers interesting ideas and I am sure the Poets Gardens, introduced as a theme for 2011, will prove very popular with show visitors.


I will, as always, go to the show with an open mind. Once Im there, I know the excitement of the occasion will grip me. I love the very first moment I walk into the show the incredible spectacle of all those wonderful jewels, the breathtaking quality of planting. The mystery and surprise of the whole event never ceases to excite me.



  • Andrew Wilson has been a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) assessor
    and judge for 15 years. He is an award-winning garden designer
    and a director of the Wilson McWilliam Studio (www.wmstudio.co.uk), a lecturer, and director of The London College of Garden Design (www.lcgd.org.uk)


Flying the flag for Surrey


Here, we meet just a few of the entrants who will be representing the county at this years Hampton Court Palace Flower Show...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2011


A crucial date in any gardeners calendar, the world-famous Hampton Court Palace Flower Show takes place every July. Here, Tinx Newton speaks to one of the RHS judges, Andrew Wilson, who lives in Surrey himself, to find how to win a gold medal


Photos: RHS


Discover who won what at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2011 in August's Surrey Life magazine.


More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 16:30

She may have recently moved to the seaside, but Surrey still holds a uniquely “precious” place in the heart of legendary children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – not to mention the crucial role the county played in bringing everyone’s favourite and newly-returning feisty foster-kid to life

Read more
Yesterday, 11:59

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (23, 24 and 25 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search