I now understand why many visitors say they prefer the Hampton Court Flower Festival over the Chelsea Flower Show: it seems more familiar, more attainable, more like a community event than a Grand Show. Yet it still offers an abundance of gardening ideas, shopping opportunities, and unlike Chelsea includes a number of educational workshops and demonstrations too.
On the day we took our tour guests to Hampton Court the weather was less than ideal, starting with clouds and ending in torrential rain so photography wasn't easy but I did manage a few snapshots of my favorite three display gardens to share with you.
Landform Mental Wealth Garden
Designed as a multi-sensory garden to promote well being, this was also a wonderful design to illustrate how to achieve a sense of private oasis in a typical small suburban lot. Reminiscent of a parterre, the raised beds combined with in-ground plantings created a sense of enclosure. Filling these with roses, coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) and lavender brought soothing colors and delightful perfume to sitting height where they could be fully appreciated. Where space is restricted, narrow raised beds or containers filled with perennials, annuals and herbs may be a better choice than wide-spreading shrubs to achieve an intermediate height between the ground plane and tree canopies.
Fencing panels made from woven willow together with metal screens inserted into containers were clothed with fragrant jasmine and honeysuckle, enhancing the sense of privacy yet offering so much beauty and texture – far more so than a standard wooden fence panel would.
A simple water feature from rusted steel was a central focal point on the patio, its sound adding to the sense of calm and serenity. I love the way the concentric circles appear to spill over the edges.
Designer Nicola Hale certainly deserved the Gold Medal for this garden, which was also awarded 'Best Construction'.
The Lunar Garden
Awarded a silver medal, this garden was designed by Queenie Chan to invite visitors to experience the garden both day and night without the use of artificial light. Inspired by the moon, the repeating circle motif is immediately evident. A strong design like this with clearly defined shapes and boundaries always works.
The reflective quality of the white gravel, flowers and silver foliage suggests moonlight while the undulating bamboo detail makes an eastern connection.
Nurturing Nature in the City
What I loved most about this design were the easy take-home ideas that were both affordable and achievable. Any beginner gardener could copy these elements using reclaimed materials to create a garden that they could enjoy but that would also benefit wildlife even on a tiny lot.
I especially loved the tiered gabion walls which included enough planting depth to add plants such as butterfly bush (Buddleia spp. : use sterile varieties if these are invasive where you live) Rozanne geranium and Santa Barbara daisy. These will quickly scramble down the rock surface to soften it visually and bring blooms throughout the summer. They are also remarkably drought tolerant.
Planting fragrant, evergreen jasmine at the base was a genius way to add color and fragrance to the gabion frames with a minimal footprint too.
Taking advantage of the tiered walls to include a simple bench maximizes space while a simple inset water feature made from recycled lumber will encourage birds, dragonflies and more.
Really well deserved Silver-Gilt medal for the Viriditas Garden Design Studio.
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