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16 Highlights of RHS Hampton Court press day

by | 02 Jul 24 | Garden Design, Long Reads | 0 comments

RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival

Those delving into gardening for the first time will be spoilt for choice at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. There’s inspiration for allotments and small pockets of planting, gardens from budding designers and a variety of tips for adding a sustainable edge to their outdoor space. This is just one of the highlights from the show, which is set to become biennial after next year’s event, with a new show taking place at Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire in 2026 before returning to Hampton Court the following year. 

Take a look at our highlights from the 2024 show here: 

1 A green spotlight is being shone 

There’s a range of ideas on display for gardens that are both beautiful and sustainable, from Australian designer Melanie Hick’s The Climate-Forward Garden – which encourages people to think about climate decisions in the planning stage rather than retrospectively to avoid emissions in the first place – to designer and TV presenter Arit Anderson’s RHS Peat-Free Garden, which uses recycled materials and rainwater collection methods. The Feature Garden emphasises the RHS’ Legacy Peat Policy to go peat free across all its operations, including show gardens, by 2026. 

Exodus Adventure Travels: The Sounds of Adventure Garden. Credit: RHS/Neil Hepworth

2 Transported around the world

In need of a holiday? RHS Hampton Court brings landscapes from across the globe to one show ground. Exodus Adventure Travels’ The Sounds of Adventure Garden designed by Nic Howard sparks wanderlust with a playlist of raw recorded sounds from 12 destinations included the early morning atmosphere in Pepperskär Hamnen, Finland. Then there’s show regular Sadie May Stowell who is showcasing two pockets of the USA with gardens themed around Oregon and Charleston this year, Melanie Hick who has sourced plants inspired by her home country of Australia from UK nurseries, and Katerina Kantalis with a Mediterranean-inspired retreat (which won Best Get Started Garden and the Best Construction Award in this category). 

3 There’s something for every budget… 

Money saving gardener and influencer Anya Lautenbach has teamed up with RHS ambassador Jamie Butterworth to help those on a limited budget continue to garden. They’ve grown plants for free, for instance, and repurposed paving slabs for the RHS Money Saving Garden. Free tutorials and presentations during the show offer advice on propagating plants and creating natural plant supports, to ensure as many people as possible can reap the benefits of horticulture. 

4 …and for any level of experience 

Budding green fingers can grow their confidence wandering around the Get Started Gardens, introduced to inspire the three million new gardeners the Horticultural Trades Association found had sprouted as a result of lockdown. They can also seek advice throughout the week from the How To Stage of talks and demonstrations and the Get Growing Festival Stage, which caters for all, from beginners through to the pros. 

RHS Adventure Within Garden. Credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle

5 An element of playfulness

Whilst the show presents the perfect opportunity to put serious themes in front of thousands of visitors, there’s also a need to remind them how fun being outdoors can be, and that’s what Freddie Strickland’s RHS Adventure Within Garden does. 2021’s RHS Young Designer of the Year has created an immersive experience, taking people from a more enclosed green section through to a more open, colourful space. Arlington Landscapes built the garden alongside soft landscaping from James and Cook.  

6 Celebrating 25 years of the Lion King in London

Thenjiwe Nofemele, star of Disney’s The Lion King, performed the Circle of Life on a garden which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the show in London. More than 19 million people have experienced the musical since performances began at the Lyceum Theatre in 1999. Garden designer Juliet Sargeant incorporated the circle motif into her community garden – built by Gardenlink – which will be relocated to The Hospice in The Weald. It won both Best Show Garden and the RHS Environmental Innovation Award. 

7 A variety of designer debuts 

Career changers such as Bea Tann, Flora Scournec and Victoria Pease-Cox have created their inaugural RHS Hampton Court gardens in the Get Started category, in which themes such as the magic of moss and a sensory experience are on display. Pro Landscaper’s 30 Under 30: The Next Generation winners Freddie Strickland, Jamie Butterworth and Oliver Bond are also showcasing their talents in Feature and Show Gardens.  

8 Allotmenteers have their own space 

Allotments have been somewhat rebranded thanks to eight vibrant gardens that show how the grow-your-own scene is more than just wonky carrots and misshapen spuds. Take the Kitchen Garden at The Pig, designed by Ollie Hutson and inspired by the hotel group’s walled kitchen gardens at its chain of country properties. The addition of colourful edible flowers would make any allotment pop. There’s also The Community Brain’s Mini Moments which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Mini Cooper winning the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time in 1964, a garden that will make anyone that sees it go home and rewatch The Italian Job whilst googling their local allotments and community gardens. 

Credit: Adam Gasson

9 Bristol’s role in botanical history is on show

Museum staff of the SS Great Britain Trust have created a floral exhibition with garden designer Jane Porter that brings the iconic steamship’s role in transoceanic plant hunting to life. In the Victorian era, rare plant species were shipped between Britain and Australia in Wardian cases, which were more resistant to salt spray and temperature changes than the greenhouses that were used previously. Two Wardian cases are on display in Hampton Court’s floral marquee, highlighting the inbound and outbound plant species carried by the ship between 1859 and 1875.  

10 Winner announced of the Brickell Award 

Garden historian Advolly Richmond took to the floral marquee to present The Mathers Foundation in West Sussex with Plant Heritage’s Brickell Award 2024 for its outstanding orchid conversation. Named after Plant Heritage’s founding member and vice president Chris Brickell, the annual award recognises excellence in plant conservation. This year’s winners Gill and David Mathers and Jim Durrant have been using sustainable growing techniques across their three National Plant Collections of orchids and have an active laboratory propagation programme of existing and new cultivar seedlings. 

Bond Landscape Design: Match Point. Credit: RHS/Neil Hepworth

11 A nod to Wimbledon 

Oliver Bond’s Match Point garden – built by PDC Landscapes – is a not-so-subtle reminder that the Wimbledon Championships are taking place at the moment, with bright purple agapanthus reminiscent of the famous sporting logo and Bond’s own amateur tennis trophies on display in the clubhouse. The tennis-inspired garden shows how a tennis court and clubhouse can be seamless additions to a garden, blending in with the rest of the landscape.  

12 The horticultural talents of a group with learning disabilities 

The Reflective Waters of Inclusivity has been built by the team at Furzey Gardens in Minstead, which has been supporting those with learning disabilities for nearly 40 years to maintain the gardens and grow on plants for sale. They used a 10-foot-long wooden spade, which has the initials of everyone who has worked on the garden, to position the garden’s last plant into place on press day.

13 Majestic Trees showcasing peat-free AirPot grown trees

The Hertfordshire-based nursery revealed the strides it had made in transitioning to peat-free production, displaying specimen trees growing using AirPot technology and without the need for additional watering or feed, such as a multistem Prunus x yedoensis on Arit Anderson’s RHS Peat-Free Garden. Managing director Steve McCurdy says growing large trees in AirPots is “not a straightforward process” but it has “made some really positive leaps forward” over the last three years, largely thanks to trials led by Ellen Underwood. 

Victoria Cucknell

14 Budding designers focusing on resilient planting 

Introduced last year, the Pocket Planting category brings new talent to the fore, and for the first year was judged and is in with a shot at the People’s Choice vote. The theme for the 2024 show is ‘resilience’. Nine designers took on the challenge with the help of mentor Tom Massey, who created the RHS Resilient Garden at last year’s show, and with the support of peat-free nursery Hortus Loci. Two of the designers are studying Garden and Landscape Design HNC at the Cornwall College University Centre based at the Eden Project – Victoria Cucknell and Hayley Herridge. Cucknell called it an “incredible challenge and a huge learning curve” but said she “can’t wait to start designing more”.

15 RHS Garden Wisley horticulturists demonstrating gardening for wildlife

The team behind the charity’s flagship garden shows how even the most formal garden can encourage wildlife with a feature at RHS Hampton Court. Pollinator-centred plants and materials have been incorporated into the space to attract wildlife throughout the day and night. The feature also promotes a more relaxed maintenance approach of leaving stems and flowers uncut throughout autumn.

16 A snapshot of Denmans Garden

Plantswoman Joyce Robinson converted the former home and garden of the late John Brookes MBE to an ornamental garden in the 1940s and started the gravel gardens in 1970, the ideas behind which have been brought to RHS Hampton Court on a smaller scale by Denmans Garden’s current owner Gwendolyn van Paasschen and head gardener Jonathan Arnold, with drought tolerant plants dominating the feature at this year’s show.  

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