The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival has always leant towards take-away ideas but this year’s outing, which opens this week, has turbo-charged that concept.
It makes sense that when live garden shows tentatively returned this year there would be a focus on pragmatic designs, expertise and ideas – after all, an estimated three million people took up gardening in the UK during the pandemic, as we reinvented tired spaces, started veg patches and eked out any possible areas to start growing.
The festival will take take at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey from 5-11th July 2021 (6th & 7th July for RHS Members). Tickets, which are in high demand, start from £27.75 – review evening tickets from £63.75 – and can be bought on the website or over the phone.
What’s new at Hampton Court?
Perhaps most notable are the entirely new areas. The RHS Allotment will provide demos and inspiration on edible gardening with talks on growing (speakers include Mark Diacono, Anna Greenland and Poppy Okotcha) and cooking (with appearances from Mary Berry, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jean-Cristophe Novelli, Valentine Warner and The Pig’s Ollie Hutson).
Arguably the mecca for veg growers will be the No Dig Demo Garden designed by the method’s best-known gurus Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty. The meticulously laid out garden is pretty much the self-sufficiency dream, with numerous no dig beds, a polytunnel and composting zone that illustrates how to grow abundant food year round
Anyone familiar with Dowding’s social media video and posts will already be in awe of his immaculate and hugely productive plot, at his own garden, Homeacres in Castle Cary, Somerset. As flag bearer for this method over 40 years, his techniques boast higher yields while also reducing maintenance and boosting biodiversity.
The designers will be on-hand during the week to answer any questions. In addition the show will host colourful and inspiring allotment plots created by community groups, growers, designers and allotmenteers such as London’s Ascott Allotments which span 12 acres in Ealing and were first introduced 170 years ago.
For flower lovers
Another new concept is the RHS Flower Market, where growers, florists and stylists (including Simon Lycett, Carolyn Dunster and Selina Lake) will give demos, talks and advice on subjects ranging from arranging blooms to pressing and drying them.
Alongside this, the Dutch garden and landscape designer Carien van Boxtel has created the RHS Cut Flower Garden which will illustrate how to nurture a beautiful and abundant cutting garden and maximise crops in both pots and beds using a delicious palette of soft pastels (white, apricot, shell pink) alongside moody burgundies and blacks. All of which can be grown in one season.
The florist Nikki Tibbles is creating a dreamy and highly scented space for flower lovers with her Enchanting Rose Tea garden in which the Wild At Heart founder will gather her favourite shrub, rambler and climbing roses around a central gazebo.
Climate is an ongoing theme as the RHS pushes forward ideas around sustainability and climate change. Tom Stuart Smith, who is the show’s Iconic Horticultural Hero, has designed a stunning and resilient perennial meadow featuring Mediterranean shrubs as well as drought-tolerant herbaceous perennials such as Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica, Verbascum phlomoides ‘Spica’, Tetraclinis articulate, Eryngium yuccifolium and swathes of perovskia.
Herbaceous plants for the garden have been grown by the Sunnyside Rural Trust which offers training and work experience to people with learning difficulties, and now has an outpost on the designer’s own land in Hertfordshire. After the show many plants will be relocated to RHS Wisley.
Meanwhile, in the Global Impact Gardens category, Tracy Foster’s conceptual garden for the Canal and River Trust highlights the issues around plastic pollution with a vibrant garden of kniphofia, penstemon, echinacea and nasturtium contained within an iron ‘bottle’ surrounded by a sea of pale blue flax.
For small spaces
Also new this year is the Get Started category which will showcase ideas for tiny plots and new gardeners. Amanda Grimes’ brilliantly named Punk Rockery uses waste products such as concrete, broken bricks, poor soil and creates a low maintence garden by recycling what you have to hand or could find for free. It focuses on drought-tolerant plants such as Lomandra longifolia and yellow flowered Koelreuteria paniculata.
With Charlie’s Garden, designer Jane Scott Moncrief illustrates how, by focussing on reliable, hard-working plants such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Erigeron karvinskianus, Stipa tenuissima and Rosa ‘Sceptre’d Isle’, you can create a haven in a city courtyard.
Visitors will no doubt be looking for ideas to make their own gardens a place they can retreat to as post-lockdown entertaining, working and spending more time at home looks set to continue.
Amelia Bouquet’s Communication Garden in support of Mental Health UK, is designed as a soothing space to enjoy evenings at home with tactile timber benches, timber shingle walls and delicate woodland planting, including Melica uniflora ‘Alba’, Geranium sanguineum ‘Visions Light Pink’, Deschampsia cespitosa, Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ as well as astrantia and tradescantia.
Similarly, Samuel Moore’s low maintenance Bounce Back Garden is designed for someone working at home with flexible entertaining and work spaces as well as soothing, pretty borders with Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, agapanthus, verbena and gaura with specimen Heptacodium miconoides trees.
There are lots more ideas in Will William’s Scandinavian-inspired garden for the show sponsors, Viking, which could be the dream lifestyle garden for anyone planning to get all their entertainment at home – there’s a sunken seating area around a firepit, an outdoor kitchen and dining area under a pale wood pergola and a water wall with a plunge pool, all under the canopy of airy specimen and multi-stem trees.
10 things to buy at Hampton Court
1. Armadillo Sun’s Beanbag chaise longue
Create a lazy corner with this chaise longue that's weatherproof and anti-fade; available for £695 at Armadillo Sun.
2. Woodee’s handmade 600mm wide mild steel firepits
Decorated with acorn cut outs and will rust naturally; available for £660 at The Woodee.
3. Tristen May’s galvanised tables and chairs
Low maintenance and beautiful, this furniture is handmade in Leicestershire. Table, £995; chairs £295, available at Tristen May.
4. The Westminster mini greenhouse
A mini greenhouse can be squeezed into almost any outdoor space; the Westminster is a slimline one foot deep with five shelves. From £369 at Garden Products.
5. Crown Pavillions hybrid designs
The latest hybrid designs from Crown Pavilions are multi-functional spaces that be used as an office, outdoor dining room, studio and can be assembled in just two to three days. From £17, 250 at Crown Pavilions.
6. Parker and Coop circular log store
Keep fire pit kindling and logs neat and close to hand with a circular log store from Parker and Coop. £250 at Parker and Coop.
7. The Maluwi from Garden House Design
The Maluwi from Garden House Design is a canopy in aluminium, wood and glass that can be configured as an outdoor dining space, bar or snug. Available for £6750 at Garden House Design.
8. Hardwood recliners from Wood Meadow Furniture
The wide hardwood recliners from Wood Meadow Furniture are made using traditional boat building techniques and finished with marine grade cushions. Price on request from Green Meadow Furniture.
9. Henchman 3501 barrow
Reduce trips to the compost heap with this 350l barrow that pushes, pulls and tips with ease and can also be adapted to use as a trailer. Available for £299 from Henchman.
10. Leather gauntlets
Leather gauntlets are a must if you’ve got a lot of roses to prune and they come in a range of sizes, each with a different colour including plum, rose and russet. Available for £30 at Glove Specialists.
Six of the best talks
Talks are arranged across four areas – Dig In Live with a focus on edibles, the Allotment Bench for veg growing tips, RHS Cut Flower Demo Bench and the main Festival Stage – and many speakers will host repeat events across show days.
Designer Carien van Boxtel will be sharing all her expertise in creating a cut flower patch in daily talks at 11am but on the opening day she will be in conversation with fellow cut flower expert Sarah Raven. 11am, 6th July, Festival Stage.
Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty’s inspirational no dig garden will be a major draw for allotmenteers at the show and the pair will join forces with the Land Gardeners and the Tresillian Estate’s John Harris to debate To Dig or Not to Dig. 12 noon, 7th July, Festival Stage.
Jamie Butterworth, RHS Ambassador, horticulturalist and the designer behind Garden for a Greener Future, will be sharing the ambitiously titled 50 Plants You Can’t Kill. 1pm, 8th July, Festival Stage.
The diverse line up of floral talks includes Fiona Haser-Bizony of Electric Daisy Flower Farm on Why Sustainable Floristry is the Only Way Forward. 5pm, 8th July, RHS Cut Flower Demo Bench.
Sustainability expert and head gardener of Kilver Court, Matt Rees-Warren will be sharing his insights on rainwater harvesting and recycling in the garden with Turning Off the Tap. 1pm, 9th July, Allotment Bench.
Visitors seduced by the Tea Rose garden created by Nikki Tibbles can join the Wild at Heart florist and discover how to recreate the look at her Tea Rose Tablescapes talk. 11am, 10th July, Festival Stage.