RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2017

Rozie Apps
Thursday, 6th July 2017

Hampton Court Flower Show is a great day out for any garden enthusiast. Although it is focussed on floral design, there are elements of permaculture and growing food in several of the gardens.

I've visited RHS Hampton Court Flower Show several times now.

I love to see what the current trends are in colour schemes, what the popular plants are and also what the themes are for the concept gardens.

But my main focus every year, is to see if any of these award winning designers are acknowledging the effects climate change, the changes in temperatures, the limits to land for food and the need for everyone to be growing food.

I'm quite often disappointed.

This year was similar to previous years. Beautiful garden designs but lacking edible elements. The 'Blind Veterans UK' garden did include a vegetable patch, but in perfectly straight lines, and every vegetable looking immaculate - unrealistic and adding to the consumer and supermarket issues with 'wonky' veg! I did love the oak framed building though, along with the amazing twisted willow sculpture.

©Rozie Apps - Blind Veterans UK Garden

The 'Kitchen Garden' is similar, however I do feel the addition of edible trees, such as rowan and beech is brilliant, as well as a mix of herbs and edible flowers such as day lily. I do take issue with the 'three sisters' example though. The 'three sisters' guild originates from Native Americans, where sweet corn, beans and squash are grown together. The beans climb up the corn, and the squash create a ground cover around both plants. Here the three plants are in the same bed, but not growing together at all.

However, there are many positives too, including my highlight of the day in the 'Gardens for a Changing World' section.

The 'London Glade' garden is exactly what I want to see when I visit these shows, and what I want in my own garden. It is an edible forest with a tiered planting of trees, shrubs, perennials, ground cover, roots and even mushrooms and EVERY single plant has an element of being edible. There are apple and nut trees, strawberries sprawling through moss, several brassicas, sweet corn, alpine strawberries, sage and lemon balm, as well as roses, globe artichokes and a mixed hedge. All these elements are mixed together in a peaceful and natural style, so that the garden looks and feels like it has always been there. The attention to detail is incredible, with not a single space of bare soil, and 'weeds' popping up here and there, just as a normal garden would have. I was so inspired by this garden and very pleased to see it won its category. It truely felt like a permaculture-designed space.

©Rozie Apps - London Glade garden - edible day lilies, cornflowers, borage, sweet corn, brassicas, strawberries, sage and more.

Another gold medal winner and inspirational garden is from the 'Conceptual Gardens', of which I'm not always a fan. 'Miracle / Elements of Life' shows the importance of the life-giving elements under our feet.

A pomegranate tree is planted amongst a perennial wildflower meadow loved by pollinators, raised on a stainless steel base to show the roots below the system. Under this is columns of water and bubbles representing life and the exchange of elements within the soil and plant's roots. The scientific symbols for the elements in the soil are engraved at the bottom of the structure.

I love that soil and its importance is being shown to the wide audience of RHS garden events. With the high use of chemicals on farms, hedgerows etc., showcasing the importance of pollinators and healthy soil is vital.

©Rozie Apps - Gold Medal winner - Miracle / Elements of Life

Another highlight for me was also in the "gardens for a Changing World' category - 'Brownfield / Metamorphosis'.

This garden explores what derelict urban sites could look like as nature returns. Pioneer species that are fairly drought tolerant are used, such as birch, buddleja, fennel and verbena are used amongst rusted steel and concrete blocks.

I also really like the recycled garden in the 'Flower and Veg box' gardens, and the 'Urban Rain Garden', although I did feel that edible elements could easily have been added to this design.

My favourite aspect of the day, which is a new addition, is the butterfly dome - packed with such a diversity of elegant butterflies of all colours and sizes. And surrounding the dome outside is a wildflower meadow with British butterflies, bees and insects, happily pollinating. It is a special area.

©Rozie Apps - The Urban Rain Garden

©Rozie Apps - Veggie heaven in the 'Cook and Grow' tent

Visiting RHS hampton Court Flower Show is an enjoyable day out for anyone interested in gardening. In my current rented home, we have only a tiny space for a garden but my partner, who is more into growing veggies than flowers, found a lot of inspiration from many of the gardens, and we are going to take these ideas into our design for our space. There are also very knowledegable plant experts who lead talks as well as answering questions on their plant stalls.

I hope the next time I visit there will be more edibles featured in the gardens, and more fruit and vegetable stalls in the 'Cook and grow' tent. I also hope there will be more gardens like 'London Glade' that show we can have gardens that emulate and work with nature but that also provide us with food and peaceful and beautiful place to sit in and enjoy.

Rozie Apps is assistant editor at Permaculture magazine

Useful links

2014 review of Hampton Court Flower Show

Designing a wildlife garden and eating it too

In Permaculture magazine, issue 93, Maddy Harland shares how she designed a wildlife abundant front garden

What is Permaculture - part 3 - design