A surprising event happening along the Thames at the beginning of July will tackle subjects such as the future of the Earth, the life of refugees, mental health and the complexities of the human brain. At the same event, artists will be producing beautiful and technically sophisticated designs – in some cases facing the trickiness of designing with water – and celebrating the work of Beatrix Potter, landscape artist Capability Brown and the sonnets of Shakespeare. Multi-faceted and reassuringly beautiful, RHS Hampton Court Flower is a tricky event to pin down.
Perhaps the best-loved of all RHS Shows, Hampton Court fills 34 acres of historic Home Park, alongside Henry VIII’s palace, with beautifully-designed gardens and spectacular floral displays. Tremendously popular since it began 26 years ago, it still manages to retain a very relaxed atmosphere, while evolving ever year. Among the new features for this year is an enormous tropical butterfly dome, beneath which visitors will be able to walk among thousands of exotic butterflies from Indonesia and South America, taking flight and settling amid the vegetation.
Meanwhile the renowned Floral Marquee and Plant Village will burst with floral exhibitors and specialist nurseries, displaying and selling all sorts of plants, from lilies, tulips and alliums to hardy exotics, bonsai and Japanese maples. The Festival of Roses marquee will house a cottage-garden setting inspired by Beatrix Potters’ garden at Hill Top house and will be filled with the scent and sight of thousands of blooms.
Always compelling are the gardens created by world-class designers. City Gardens will demonstrate just how much urban dwellers can achieve, whatever the size of their plot; charming Summer Gardens return and Conceptual Gardens allow designers to push the boundaries of garden design, raising awareness of all kinds of issues as they strike a blend between seriousness and beauty
The RHS is also aiming to spark an interest in horticulture among younger generations. For the first time, the Saturday of the show becomes ‘Family Saturday’, featuring all sorts of children’s activities, including seed sowing, a family trail, story time and cookery classes. The activities will have a Rocket Science theme to tie in with the RHS’ current partnership with the UK Space Agency, which aims to discover whether space travel impacts on the growth of seeds. And pupils from all over the south east have designed and created scarecrows for judging by an expert RHS panel. All 60 scarecrows have a space theme (and I hear there’s at least one David Bowie in there). Each full-paying adult can bring two children (aged 16 and under) free of charge to the show on any day of the week including the ‘Family Saturday’. There is also a crèche, giving parents the opportunity to go off and explore for themselves.
Finally, if you’re looking for a bargain, the plant sell-off begins at 4:30pm on Sunday 10 July, with display plants grown for the award-winning gardens (often bigger and better than those generally available to buy (up for grabs. It’s worth staying around ‘til the very end!
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from 5-10 July 2016. For further information or to buy tickets, visit the website.