Tom and I are definitely covering the gardens this year, perhaps I should get a seperate section on the blog – ‘Gardens of the Cotswolds’. Anyway, last weekend was my first visit to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
As a PR, I work for Losberger De Boer which builds all of the show structures, including the Floral Marquee and I know through working with them that Hampton Court is the largest flower show on the planet. What you don’t really appreciate until you actually arrive is exactly how big the place is!
As a first time goer, I thought I would share my highlights… Here’s a first timer’s guide to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
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Arriving at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show
I bought our tickets quite late, just a week before – adults are £33 with 10am entry. The show itself actually runs for a whole week with two preview days for press and RHS members and then four days for the general public. We headed there on a Saturday.
The on site car parking was fully booked when I bought our tickets and has to be pre-booked. Instead, we headed for the park and ride. You can follow signs as you approach Hampton Court Palace.
The organisers run free shuttle buses to the lock on the river Thames about a 15-minute walk to the showgrounds. You can also get the ferry shuttle which costs £3 each way and was frankly a lifesaver, especially on the way back after we’d walked several miles around the gardens.
What to see?
When you watch the TV coverage of RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the place is packed with people. Hampton Court is busy but it is quite easy to move about and still see the show gardens. Just watch out for people with their trugs on wheels.
Hampton Court has 26 show gardens, twice the number of gardens at Chelsea. Show guides are £5 and I’d say it’s worth purchasing one, especially if you are interested in the inspiration and planting behind the show gardens. There’s plenty of signage around each garden with an explanation, but you can’t always get to them if there is a crowd.
It’s also quite helpful to try and catch some of the TV coverage before you go, as the presenters often show a number of highlights. (The BBC is all over Hampton Court!)
This year the RHS launched its Iconic Horticultural Heroes celebrating renowned gardeners. The inaugural hero was Dutch landscape designer, Piet Oudolf, who created a walk-through meadow-like garden using his trademark combination of herbaceous perennials and grasses.
I particularly liked the Evolve garden which showed 3.5 billion years of plant evolution from single-celled organisms to today’s biodiversity. It included an orb-like greenhouse which housed tropical plants like the ones we saw on honeymoon.
The show is sponsored by Viking Cruises and I wondered if that was why the show featured a selection of World Gardens. In fact, Tom’s favourite garden in the whole show was the Santa Rita ‘Living La Vida 120’ Garden, which brought the flavours of Chile to Hampton and used arid and Mediterranean planting (including agaves and Tom has a ginormous one of those at home!)
There were also quite a few conceptual gardens. For example, the Apeiron: The Dibond Garden was like an art installation. An infinite meadow is created as you stepped into a mirrored box. Designed by Alex Rainford-Roberts, the garden was like entering a dream.
Over 100 nurseries and growers are represented within the Floral Marquee, which provides over 6,750 square metres of exhibition space (Losberger De Boer fact!) It’s also the main space for doing a spot of plant shopping and I highly recommend getting one of those trugs on wheels. There’s also the plant village with plenty of places to shop.
RHS Hampton Court hosts the Festival of Roses. You can see the Rose of the Year here which in 2019 was called ‘Starlight Symphony’ and had pure white flowers with a spicy scent.
Food options at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
There are loads of places to get something to eat and as it was so hot, we made sure that we had plenty to drink and plenty of ice cream. There were places across the show to fill up your water bottles but there was always a pretty long queue. Pimms was also regularly available but it was £7.50 for a half cup!
We arrived on site at about 1.30pm and left just before closing 7.00pm, plenty of time and we easily got around the whole showground without rushing.
I hope you’ve found this first timer’s guide useful and do let me know what was your favourite show garden this year?