25 reasons to visit RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015
PUBLISHED: 14:26 29 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:14 06 July 2015
With our favourite flower show not only celebrating its 25th anniversary this year but also selected as Garden Event of the Year 2015 in the International Garden Tourism Awards, our gardening editor Leigh Clapp brings us her pick of what to see
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2015
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As the world’s biggest annual flower show, RHS Hampton Court is always a highlight in the local gardening calendar, but this year promises to be something extra-special because the show will also be celebrating its 25th anniversary. As a result, there will be even more to see and do than normal at this year’s floral extravaganza, running from Tuesday June 30 to Sunday July 5, with something for all ages and gardening abilities.
“We’re really excited about this year’s 25th anniversary,” says show manager Dave Green. “The show is set to be packed with more gardens and features than ever as well as themed events and displays throughout the showground to mark the silver anniversary. We can’t wait to open the gates so everyone can join in with this year’s celebrations.”
As well as the always inspiring Show Gardens taking centre stage (more of which later), this year’s event will be blooming with exciting displays, fantastic shopping and a wide range of demonstrations. In total, there will be over 500 exhibitors, offering visitors everything from flowers to ornaments and tools to furniture. In fact, this is the place to find ideas for all areas of your garden – from the latest plants and grow-your-own advice to outdoor living. This year, you will notice that the trend for naturalistic planting continues, as does the ethos for eco- friendly, contemporary planting schemes.
To help visitors navigate their way around, once again the show will be divided into three zoned areas – in the north will be Grow, with nursery stalls, plants for sale and three new Historic Gardens; then in the centre there’s Feast, a new zone replacing Escape that will house edible and grow-your-own exhibits, food stands and the popular Cookery Theatre; and finally, by the Thames, there will be Inspire, with the Conceptual Gardens following a theme this year of ‘sensations’ in an interactive experience.
“Hampton Court Palace Flower Show has changed a lot since the show began 25 years ago,” says Sarah Squire, deputy chairman at the Surrey-based Squire’s Garden Centres, who have taken part in every show. “As well as the focus being naturally on horticulture, there’s been a huge growth in other areas of interest, such as food and fashion shows, so it makes it a great day out for all the family.
“The other change is that visitors can purchase plants and flowers they see at the show, including rare and unusual plants. It’s a wonderful opportunity to buy the plants they like, and then have them in their garden the very next day.”
While for visitors, a trip to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a relaxing day out to enjoy, for the exhibitors there is the element of nervous anticipation at the outset as they vie for the coveted RHS medals and show awards for the best in category, including Conceptual Gardens, World Gardens and Summer Gardens. For 2015, there will be 41 gardens in total, with something for all tastes.
“I’m especially excited about all the gardens this year,” adds Dave Green. “In every category, there are very high quality designs and some will be spectacular. I think there could be a real battle to be best in show between some of the big names.”
Whatever your area of interest, a day at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is sure to inspire, educate and enthral, but to make sure you get the very best from your visit, here are our 25 tips for what to see, do and eat while you’re there…
Need to know:
Where: RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey KT8 9AT
When: Tuesday June 30 to Sunday July 5, 10am-7.30pm (RHS members only on Tuesday June 30 and Wednesday July 1; pre-booked tickets in advance)
How much: Tickets £19 to £36 – each full-paying adult may bring two children of 16 or under for free (see website for different pricing options)
Contacts: Tel: 0207 649 1885.
Top tip: Arrive in style on one of Turks’ charming shuttle boats, from the station and also from piers at Kingston and Richmond.
The social side: The Preview Evening takes place on Monday June 29 from 5-10.30pm. Enjoy the gardens in a relaxed party atmosphere with live music, alfresco dining and fireworks. Admission: £55 members, £65 non-members.
25 reasons to visit RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015
Highlights for 2015…
1. Don’t miss the special displays to mark the silver anniversary of the show – these will include a 30x30m maze of turf and hedging, by the Thames entrance gate, designed by Tony Smith; a turf sculpture; a giant floral birthday cake outside the Floral Marquee; as well as silver anniversary floristry.
2. The Show Gardens are always a big draw, so head there early to avoid the crowds. With themes such as heritage, lifestyle, community, calm spaces and music, there will be an array of inspiration on offer.
3. The RHS Hub in the Inspire zone will be the place for families, featuring a village green with bandstand, food stalls, an Alice in Wonderland themed activity area and the popular scarecrow competition.
4. Get your head around the seven Conceptual Gardens exploring the idea of sensation with immersive installations. Always evocative and sometimes challenging, they are sure to be talking points.
5. The Summer Gardens are wonderful for translating ideas to smaller spaces and this year will include a roof garden, a healing space and a Japanese design.
Surrey success stories
6. With a number of garden centres across Surrey, Squire’s is one of seven exhibitors that have taken part in every show. This year, they will be showcasing a town garden, designed by Ian Hammond, which has been inspired by the location of the garden centres and the interests of their customers – who look for “lovely, reliable plants, attractive surroundings to relax in and also like to promote wildlife.” The garden uses a mix of colourful planting against a foil of green and includes wildflowers to bring a touch of the country into the garden.
7. Surrey-based Crocus, the UK’s biggest gardening website, will be showcasing current and new product ranges and furniture. A regular at Chelsea, this will be the first time they have brought their products to Hampton Court. “Crocus have built their reputation on their plants and arguably sell the most comprehensive and interesting range in the UK,” says co-founder Peter Clay. “Those that go to the Chelsea Flower Show will have seen the gardens that Crocus have built for a galaxy of top designers over the years – winning 23 gold medals in the 15 years that they have exhibited. But few know them for their range of products. All that is set to change…”
8. Surrey is also represented in the Floral Marquee with a display of succulents from W&S Lockyer in Purley, cannas from Hart Canna in Bisley, as well as azaleas and rhododendrons from Millais Nurseries in Churt with some innovative new varieties. “Millais Nurseries are delighted to be exhibiting at the 25th anniversary of Hampton Court Palace Flower Show,” says owner David Millais. “We are returning after a gap of more than 15 years with a new range of late flowering deciduous azaleas, which we have spent many years developing. They are ideally suited for the smaller garden as they are so compact, often with beautiful foliage.”
9. Another Show Garden to look out for this year is The Unique Rare Chromosome Garden, which will highlight the Surrey charity Unique, an Oxted-based support group for those with a chromosome disorder. The genetic anomalies that cause these disorders has led the design, which uses plants that are less commonly celebrated in the Show Gardens.
10. Last but by no means least, Surrey is also represented in the Trade Stands, with outdoor lighting from Light Innovation in Epsom, British-made steel supports by Muntons in Dorking, as well as Quist sculptural fountains from Haslemere.
Where to eat and drink
11. It can get very hot so keep well hydrated. There are food courts across the site offering covered or outdoor seating or you may prefer to sit in one of the restaurants or cafés. Keep an eye on the crowds and I would advise getting there early for brunch or an early lunch.
12. If you’d like a fine dining restaurant in a lovely setting overlooking the Show Gardens, the palace and the historic deer park, book a table at the Allium Restaurant in the Inspire zone, by telephoning 0844 338 7502 (bookings close on Friday June 26).
13. For simpler fare in a beautiful location overlooking the Long Water, I’d recommend the Palace Garden Room in the Grow zone. In association with Cunard, it offers sandwiches, salads and cakes, as well as full afternoon tea, and you can sit inside or outside in sun or shade.
14. Another restaurant that needs booking by Friday June 26 is the Champagne and Seafood Restaurant in the Escape zone in the heart of the showground. To book your table, call 0844 338 7502.
15. Or, you may prefer just to purchase a snack from one of the self-service food outlets, such as the Garden Walk Café in Feast or Long Water Delis in Feast and Grow, and spread out with a picnic.
16. My favourite area for shopping is the Country Living Pavilion. With over 120 stalls, it’s the place to go for artisan crafts, home accessories and unusual gifts, many of which are British-made products.
17. For some artisan food direct from the producers, head to the Great Tastes marquee, where you’ll find everything from chocolates, biscuits and olive oils to pies, cheeses, preserves and even English-grown Tregothnan tea.
18. This is ‘the’ show for plant lovers, with plants available to buy throughout the week to take home – as you can tell by the obstacle course of hundreds of trailing crates on wheels brimming with finds. I’d recommend heading to the Plant Village for a more relaxed experience with small specialist nurseries, and remember that the plant sell-off from displays and gardens starts at 4.30pm on Sunday, when you may pick up an extra bargain.
19. At the array of Trade Stands, you will find everything from sheds and irrigation systems to pots and gardening gloves – an essential stop-off for the serious gardener.
20. If you are after a new greenhouse, the show is very useful as you can compare some great companies, with Victorian styles from Alitex and Griffin Glasshouses, red cedar from Gabriel Ash, as well the range from Greenhouses Direct and Hartley Botanic, all on one site.
While you’re there…
21. Photograph plants and labels of choices you would like to add to your garden – it’s easier and quicker than writing them down and you have an instant visual reference.
22. Watch a celebrity cookery demonstration in the Feast zone, from the likes of James Wong, Rachel Allen, Alys Fowler, Greg Wallace and Thane Prince.
23. Become a plant hunter and discover the Rose of the Year for 2016 in the Festival of Roses Marquee, new plant launches in the Floral Marquee, or some rarities from the National Collections in the Plant Heritage Marquee.
24. Need any garden problems solved? Then head to the RHS Advisory Stand in the Floral Marquee for some expert advice.
25. Visit Hampton Court Palace with joint entry; pop over to nearby Ham House; or, just a short stroll from there, check out the ever-popular Petersham Nurseries.
Did you know?
• RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was first held in 1990.
• The event was created by Historic Royal Palaces and Network Southeast.
• For the first shows, Network Southeast laid on special trains from Waterloo and the porters all wore carnations in their hats.
• In 1992, Network Southeast announced it was withdrawing its subsidy and the RHS was the successful bidder and took over the show in 1993.
• It has since become the largest flower show in the world.
• Twice the size of Chelsea, remember to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for all weather conditions!
• The Floral Marquee is 6,750 square metres, big enough to fit an FA football pitch, and holds more than 100 nurseries and growers.
• It takes three weeks to build a show garden and two for a small garden, but just three days to be dismantled.
• An average of 130,000 people attend the show every year.
• During the show week, visitors consume 48,501 cups of fair-trade tea and coffee; 15,029 rounds of sandwiches and 1,500 baguettes; 14,274 glasses of Pimm’s; 14,868 glasses of champagne; 5,598 flower pot muffins; and 4,357 slices of cake.