Inspiring show gardens at Hampton Court

The sun was shining for my trip to this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and there were umbrellas everywhere as people desperately tried to create their own shade and escape the heat. Despite the temperature, the sun kindly painted the gardens in their very best light – making sure that the show was better than ever for its 25th anniversary year.

25th anniversary

As in previous years, the show was split into three different zones – Grow, Feast and Inspire – to make it easier for visitors to make their way around the largest show of its kind. Some people like visiting for the chance to snap up all manner of plants and accessories, while others jump at the chance to soak up design inspiration. I fall into the second camp so for me, it was the Inspire section that held the most appeal, with its mixture of show gardens, summer gardens, world gardens and conceptual gardens.

inspire text

Read on to find out what show gardens caught my eye and learn more about the concepts behind them.

Vestra Wealth: Encore – A Music Lover’s Garden

music themed garden

If you’re a music lover, then you’ll appreciate Vestra Wealth’s 2015 garden. Inspired by Handel’s Water Music which was commissioned by King George I, the musical piece made its debut on the River Thames. The garden has the enjoyment of music at its heart, providing a space for it to be enjoyed outside in the open air with the clever inclusion of a cut sandstone amphitheatre. Designer Paul Martin has come up with a meandering path which slowly makes its way past planting, trees and sandstone rocks.

Next to the path, you’ll find a rill which follows the course of the path, mimicking the Thames, before it falls down into a sunken area playing host to a pool. Seventy different plants sit alongside three trees, three multi-stem birches and one hedge, ultimately coming together to create a garden that’s wildlife-friendly, romantic and inspiring.

The Macmillan Legacy Garden

relaxing garden

In her own words, Ann-Marie Powell’s garden “represents a journey through life and allows for both relaxation and delight as you move through the space”. While that might sound a bit sentimental, it stands true that as you walk through the garden, you’re led to reflect on your life and what really matters. Different paths (littered in the nicest of ways with soft plants) represent the choices you have to make and there are plenty of opportunities to sit and look back on the past, before thinking ahead to the future.

All paths lead to a cosy shelter which Ann-Marie says is there for “signifying the comfort that Macmillan brings to so many people”. If you look closely, you’ll spot a birch tree growing through a skylight created in the shelter. It’s a nod to the monetary gifts left to Macmillan in wills which allow them to continue their work. This is a garden with plenty of appeal; it’s peaceful and subtle in the connections it makes to charity work. In fact, the biggest clue is the colour scheme which mirrors the charity’s colours of green and white.

Scotty’s Little Soldiers Garden

memory tree

This garden was created to raise awareness for the charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers and the work they do to support military children who have lost their parents. The biggest draw is the memory tree, which holds ribbons containing messages from some of the children who the charity supports. Each message is written to a parent who is now absent from their lives and heartbreaking as they are, I was struck by the positivity and hope that’s interwoven with the sadness. Just like the garden’s rill reaches every stretch of the garden, the absence of a parent will be felt forevermore in a child’s life. That said, the calm planting reminds us that a turbulent start will lead to a more stable future further down the road, once the children have received the help and support that they need.

Unique: The Rare Chromosome Garden

unique garden

Designed by Catherine Chenery and Barbara Harfleet, this show garden pays homage to the Unique charity – raising awareness of rare chromosome disorders and the ways that they can influence how a person lives their life.

These genetic anomalies are reflected in the design through paving and hedges (symbolising duplicate and absent genes), cutting into a winding path that’s reminiscent of a DNA strand. The gravel pathways play out the implications of this, encouraging us to think about the tough journeys of those affected.

In contrast, the meeting point in the middle of the garden offers respite. Curved benches are surrounded by trees which feels both comforting and supporting. Just as The Macmillan Legacy Garden makes use of the charity’s colours, Unique’s blue, yellow and white is scattered throughout annual and perennial flowering plants, to uplifting effect.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs in London until the 5th July, 2015. For more information, head on over to the RHS website. If you’re feeling inspired by what you’ve read and want to tackle your own garden, why not post a job to find a garden designer in your area.


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