Heather Appleton’s Russian Museum Garden
Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hooray for Bloomsday!

This year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show promises to be a truly magnificent event

Written by Sarah Langton-Lockton

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is one of the glories of the English summer. It’s the biggest flower show in the world, in a magnificent setting – 34 acres of park, with the spectacular Long Water, criss-crossed by pontoons, dividing the site smartly down the middle. I love the journey by train, with the first glimpses of the palace’s Tudor brickwork across the river as one emerges from the station, and then the picturesque ferry ride or the stroll over the bridge and along the river bank, skirting the palace and its immaculately restored gardens.

Last year, I admired the way vegetables were creeping into the show gardens, and mixing unselfconsciously with the ornamentals. I enjoyed spotting the most popular plant – ‘Kalibos’, a handsome pointed cabbage with deep purple/red leaves, which hails from Eastern Europe. And I was enchanted by the show garden that won Best In Show, the enigmatically named ‘I am, because of who we are’.

This garden, by designers Caroline Comber and Petra Horackova, expressed the need for communities and nations to build beneficial partnerships. It consisted of interlocking circles of planting, each with a single plant species; wherever the circles came together, the species also combined, illustrating the designers’ messages of harmony and participation.

The Landform GardenThe Landform Garden

The colour palette was beautiful: cool greens and whites, with copper notes provided by Digitalis ferruginea and curvy rusted metal panels. Under a canopy of Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’ were foxgloves, astrantias and delicate grasses such as quaking grass Briza. The garden was striking and unforgettable.

This year, there is much to look forward to, including 11 show gardens, and among them the new category, World Of Gardens. These gardens promise to take the visitor on a journey from the Azores to Jordan, by way of St Petersburg and Switzerland. They include the Discover Jordan Garden, by Paul Hervey-Brookes, inspired by the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of the 2,000-year-old city of Petra, carved out of red sandstone, and which celebrates the rich landscape and floral diversity of Jordan; also the Swiss Alpine Garden, commissioned by Switzerland Tourism from designer Sadie May Stowell, complete with mountain peaks, running streams, alpine meadows and a traditional Swiss chalet.

I shall be looking out for successful entries in a new competition, Low Cost, High Impact Gardens, which illustrate what can be achieved with relatively small budgets ranging from £7,000 to £13,000. Among them, Summer In The Garden by Mike Harvey is a low-water garden with scented, drought-resistant planting on either side of an informal path of reclaimed York flags planted with thyme. A seating area at the end of the garden has a stone fireplace to make eating outside bearable on an English summer evening. Also of interest is the new Summer Gardens category, with small plots of practical ideas on an array of topics that include butterfly-friendly planting and community gardens.

And, finally, I shall be making a beeline for Urban Oasis, a 1,600 m2 garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw in consultation with community groups across the country. This centrepiece of the show is the result of collaboration between the RHS and Groundwork, a charity whose work to reclaim land and create green spaces I much admire. The aim is to show that flowers, foodgrowing schemes, play areas and community orchards can thrive in the unlikeliest of places, including waste ground and densely populated residential areas.

There will be plants to covet, including a stunning bright pink rose, ‘You’re Beautiful’ (‘Fryracy’), bred by Gareth Fryer Roses UK, and chosen as Rose Of The Year 2013, and sundries and tools to appeal to even the thriftiest gardener. I shall be looking for good products to tempt children into the garden, and will report in due course…

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is open to the public from 3 to 8 July: www.rhs.org.uk



Jobs to do

Jobs to do this week

  • Box hedges and topiary are looking distinctly shaggy following copious rain. Now is the time to clip, removing most of the bright green growth made this spring.
  • Keep seed in an airtight tin, ideally with a little bag of silicon gel in the bottom. Exposure of seeds to damp is a common reason for germination failure.
  • Remove runners from strawberry plants, as they sap energy from the mother plant and may reduce yields.
  • Sow wallflowers under glass for spring flowering next year.
  • The hosepipe ban is largely over, but we should all continue our good habits and use water sparingly.

Plant of the week

Plant of the week

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (‘Gerwat’)

A fast-growing, clump-forming perennial, lax in habit and best among roses and taller shrubs. Its intense violet/blue flowers light up the border from June to the first frosts. It is easy to grow in full sun or partial shade, in fertile, well-drained soil and benefits from being cut back by one-third in late summer to tidy it up and encourage fresh growth and prolonged flowering. Height and spread: 60cm x 40cm. Stockists include the Wisley Plant Centre, www.rhs.org.uk/ wisleyplantcentre: or visit the RHS online plant finder at www.rhs.org.uk/ rhsplantfinder

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