Visitors to this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival have plenty of fabulous gardens to inspire them and provide ideas and inspiration for their own space.
With more than twenty gardens at this year’s Garden Festival including four feature gardens, there is plenty to inspire and delight visitors. The gardens are spread throughout the site, integrated within the garden product stands, so that you can enjoy them at a slower pace. Seek them out and take time to absorb the messages within, the extravagant and sometimes ethereal planting and just enjoy. Here are five gardens that really made us stop and stare. In no particular order.
BBC Spring Watch Garden – Feature Garden 568
Designer – Jo Thompson
Wildlife gardens and gardening for nature are a hot topic at this year’s show.
Recent research indicates that private gardens in Britain cover an area bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined and, while individual gardens may be small, when combined they create vital links between urban nature and the wider countryside and offer crucial resources for wildlife now and in the future.
BBC Spring Watch Garden showcases three gardens, of adjacent neighbours, each with its own style but including features to attract and support nature and wildlife. It’s a lovely scape of three gardens that almost blend together with blurred boundaries; perfect for wildlife that is never bounded by the fences and divisions we put in place. Side by side the three gardens offer plenty of ways that neighbours can work towards a common aim of supporting wildlife through gardening and ultimately benefitting the wider environment too.
There’s a cottagey garden with border packed full of perennials interspersed with food crops like tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, which rely on bumblebees for pollination. Look out for the white clover lawn, which embraces a plant revered by the bees but often loathed by lawn lovers even though it stays green in drought. The gardens are packed with nectar and pollen rich perennials; salvias, achilleas, foxgloves, eryngiums, geraniums and alliums all cater for the varied tongue lengths of our native bees.
The Nature Craft Garden Lifestyle Garden 422
Designed by Pollyanna Wilkinson
There’s a real sense of peace in this garden. Inspired by botanical crafts, The Naturecraft Garden explores how we can create beautiful objects from the plants we grow. It’s a showcase of crafts all beautifully integrated into the garden, packed fill of dye plants and medicinal herbs and flowers that will can be pressed or dried for floral craft and artwork. Every plant in this romantic cottage garden, has a purpose, whether its medicinal, edible or practical such as Anthemis tinctoria (dyer’s chamomile – yellow dye plan) and Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort – for antidepressant qualities and makes a pink dye).
. The planting is soft with a silver and white emphasis, with a yellow accent. Soft pink pastel roses, ‘Olivia Austin’ season the design, covered in marshmallow pink flowers that add a romantic feel. White birch punctuate the boundary, while the flat flower heads of wild carrot, fennel and Ammi majus, so beloved of pollinators add a see-through effect to the scene. A gentle repetition of the foamy lime flowers of alchemilla mollis adds a beautiful citrus accent to the colour scheme.
Designed for a nature-loving craft enthusiast, the garden features a circular dry-stone firepit shepherd’s hut and eccentric surprising objects that have been foraged and curated to form a sanctuary where creativity can thrive.
Year of Green Action Garden Show Garden 329
Designed by Helen J Rosevear and Jane Stoneham
There are some lovely ideas in this garden, designed to appeal to all the senses and especially for children, encouraging them to connect with nature to support and enhance their mental and physical wellbeing.
Look out for the wildlife towers, designed to provide shelter and nesting space for all manner of creatures, with cool stacked tiles at the base for amphibians, beetles and invertebrates to crawl in for shelter and a variety of natural nesting materials throughout and topped with a productive planter, the towers provide an attractive garden feature that is interactive, practical and inspired.
The garden encourages an engagement with the natural world to foster deep, lasting connections that motivate to care and act for the environment. All of the features are affordable and accessible so that families and schools can replicate them in their own green spaces.
Visitors can explore tactile living panels that create a boundary in the garden and a backdrop to the patio area. The plants grown have been chosen for their sensory appeal and create children’s miniature garden worlds. There’s a sensory collection of nectar-rich flowers such as salvias, veronica, verbena bonariensis, buddleia, alliums and stachys, leading to a haven of hidden dens and a nature dome that demonstrates the value of quiet reflective space. Scent, touch and taste are heightened on the patio with containers and vertical panels filled with beautiful edibles and scented leaves and flowers.
Calm Amidst Chaos Show Garden 491
Designer Joe Francis
There’s a real Banksyesque feel to this garden when you first see it. There’s dark, harsh beauty in the rubbish and debris that surrounds its central oasis. Every item from the black dog, broken coffins, discarded CCTV cameras, wartime missile and a clock that runs fast has a message, the overwhelming scenario of modern life and the dark that it can create. A sculpture of knives hints at desperation, that difficult place of struggle and internal turmoil that so many people experience at some point in their lives.
This garden, Calm Amidst Chaos draws awareness to the importance of creating peace and tranquility amid the potentially overwhelming modern world. Life can feel like a crazy, chaotic experience that stretches us to our limits so it’s no wonder that today’s society is facing an epidemic of mental health challenges. While this Show Garden is a physical space highlighting the extremes of the physical world, it is also symbolic of the contrast we can feel within ourselves. It’s here to promote the message that, despite what is going on around us, creating an inner sense of peace is a powerful way to manage our daily lives better.
Break through the chaos into the central, calmer oasis and there’s a rough lawn carved from the wilderness. A leafy throne is a place to contemplate and restore. The planting palette is a canvas of luscious greens, using woodland plants such as ferns and hostas to promote a sense of peace, calm and relaxation for nature bathing when it is needed the most.
The Cancer Research UK Pledge to Progress Garden Show Garden 490
Designed by Tom Simpson
There’s a real organic curve to the design of this garden that literally draws you into its enveloping space. It’s tranquil and peaceful with a fabulous, rich choice of plants that fill the borders with texture and colour and vibrancy.
With its striking curved layout, the garden is formed of a main pathway that meanders through a richly scented planting scheme. At the centre of the space is a sunken seating area that encourages visitors to relax and reflect beneath the shading of the pledge tree.
The planting scheme features vibrant flowers such as salvias, lychnis and penstemon, paired with the softer hues of ballota, wild carrot, foxgloves and coneflowers. Look closely for the medicinal plants such as the yew hedging chosen for its cancer treatment association, digitalis for its heart medicine or the immune boosting properties of echinacea.
Dotted among the planting are beautifully carved timber posts, some etched with the names of people who have pledged a gift in their will and others with the incredible steps forward made in cancer research. There’s a timeline of key discoveries in cancer research, but in essence the garden represents the important role of legacy gifts on Cancer Research UK’s progress.