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Random Flower Hampton Court
Flower Show 2001

By Jude

In 2000 I treated myself to a 'me' day at the BBC Gardener's World show - and it was wonderful - I met Carol Klein and got close to 'Titchy' Titchmarsh (but that's another story).

So, what would my treat be this year?…

One of the "big ones'", I thought….

'Chelsea?….. hmmm, perhaps not….'

I have heard it said that real gardeners go to Hampton Court…..

'I'm a real gardener…..

……just not that often.'

My Mum & I set off from home in the wee small hours of the morning (about 5.30am, if my memory serves me well) to catch the plane to Stanstead then via train to the hotel, arriving about noon. (It's amazing how time flies when you haven't a clue where you're going!) This was Mum's birthday treat as well as my 'me' day!

Guide books & maps at the ready we took to the underground, aiming to get connecting trains all the way to Hampton Court ending with a leisurely cruise on the river ferry from whence we would step, like bygone royalty, onto the Palace shores.

Did we heck!

Our connecting underground station was closed, resulting in a humid one hour bus ride through traffic thronged streets and, to add insult to injury, we had a mile trek to the show area from the bus stop.

We were exhausted by the time we got there at 2.30pm!

But once inside the show area ….. there it was…..

the things that we most wanted to see first of all…..

the loos & the tea tent!

Twenty minutes later, refreshed in both body & spirit we were ready to start. But where to start, there was so much!

The marquees, no question about it!

The plants looked like they were fresh from the garden, and the displays were awesome. There were plants for every situation…. new introductions….. old favourites….. new ideas! Contributions from small family business to the big nationals.

But the heat…. Oh , the heat in the marquees! (not that I'm complaining, you understand, after all the rain!). We ended up doing the marquees in relays - in for a while & then out for a while.

After 'test driving' the vast array of garden furniture (produced everywhere from New Zealand to the Amazon), we headed for the Daily Mail's Four Seasons Garden.

Perhaps it was psychosomatic but standing in the 'snow' really did make me feel cooler. The crowds has eased by then and I had time to stand there and just absorb the atmosphere of the gardens…. and I really could feel it… it was real…. and I was part of it.

Each of the four gardens had their own, quite distinctive aura and the transition between the seasons was perfect. Winter blossomed into Spring, which burst into Summer, which mellowed into Autumn, which crept into Winter again. Each garden was wonderful in it's own right.

After covetously perusing the plethora of garden ornaments, statues & water features (how much????….. for that!!!….. I could make one of those for next to nothing!!!) we stumbled upon the show gardens.

Somehow, I had always imagined that they would be bigger, or more accessible, or that they would make a greater impact on me…. but mostly they didn't. We shuffled past, in single file, not wanting to stop too long lest we delay another pilgrim.

Having said that, some of the Show Gardens were inspiring.

For me it was the 'Roots & Shoots - A Driftwood Garden'. The arbour was a tangle of gnarled driftwood and the garden a cacophony of colour and movement. It could have been resting in some hidden dell for hundreds of years, defying discovery.

Other Show Gardens were sensible & practical.

The 'Family Retreat' was one such garden. Good for kids…. good for plants… good for everything…. but…., and lets be honest here,….. boring….. very, very boring. I don't go to these shows to look over my neighbour's fence, I go to be inspired!

And so on to the garden awarded 'Best in Show' by the RHS judges …. the 'Mitsubishi Urban Chic' Garden.

This garden had, no doubt, some redeeming features. Unfortunately they were very well disguised - though the ornamental grass did look promising at one point. The things that were floating in the 'pond' summed up most people's opinion of this 'garden'!

And what about the 'Carport Garden' …. Whoops I mean the Mercedes Benz Garden -'For Whoever You Are'. They may make some great cars, but gardens….. let's just say that I know I'm a gardener and see if they can draw the analogy. Maybe next year they'll stick to the Motor Show!

And as for the RHS judges!!!

Perhaps they should have had a chat with Jekka McVickar before crushing up those leaves to make their pre-judging herbal tea!

After all that emotional upheaval it was back to the tea tent for a scrumptious apple & cinnamon crepe. But we couldn't tarry long for there was much still to see & do.

Back into the melee of vendors plying their wares in the hope of catching some unsuspecting visitor in a weak moment. Admittedly, I could have bought enough to warrant chartering a plane to bring it all back home, but, as I had only a small rucksack I had to choose carefully. (Well…., I couldn't come all that way & go home empty handed, could I?).

After increasingly frequent tea stops and further meanderings amongst the now sparsely stocked stalls, at 7.15 pm we decided to call it a day.

We hadn't seen everything… I just know we hadn't!

'Couldn't we just go back to that…..'

'No?…..'

'Ok…, perhaps not.'

We dragged our wearied bodies to the ferry point and once boarded could relax momentarily while the water lapped alongside the gently lolling hull. We joined the throng of flora-burdened folk at the railway station and in what seemed like no time at all, but was in fact 1˝ hours, were back at the hotel. Not long after that we were in bed!

I never did tell you what I bought that day, did I?

On a small straw-roofed stall in a leaf-dappled corner were the most grotesque steel-skeletoned lizards. (Hand-made in Africa - the money is reinvested back into the village where they are made). Each one had it's own character reflected in it's stance, the skew of it's head and the arch of it's tail. I took a long time deciding which one to adopt. 'Eddie' (Lizard) is so ugly that he is beautiful and it was love at first sight. He now lives amongst the jasmine on the pergola in the garden & has given many an unsuspecting visitor a start.

My other purchase was a much searched for and longed for 'Swiss Army' pruning knife.

Both are my constant garden companions and, strange as it may seem, both give me great happiness.

Why?

Because they remind me of a very special day spent with a very special person


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