The long-awaited reveal of garden designs for this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is finally here.
In common with other flower shows, the key RHS theme of ‘Health, Happiness and Horticulture’ is strongly represented in the chosen designs.
Horticulture is increasingly recognised for its therapeutic qualities, especially in terms of improving people’s quality of life. This concept, whether it be combating depression (‘The Outdoor Room’) or recovering from cancer (‘Striving for Survival’) will permeate gardens across the show.
Some of the designs take this even further, using horticulture to represent the stuggles people go through in order to improve their health and happiness; including topical themes of the plight of refugees (UNHCR ‘Border Control’ Garden) and the vulnerability of life in less stable regions of the globe (‘World Vision’). The gardens fall into four categories:
Simplicity, a new naturalism and wellbeing are key themes in this year’s show gardens. For example, the Viking River Cruises Scandinavian Garden evokes a wild, Nordic shoreline with a relaxing informality and calming palette of wildflowers. Meanwhile the Cancer Research UK Tribute Garden takes a more hi-tech approach: visitors walk through a peaceful contemplative garden, only to find an entirely new, virtual garden at its centre, experienced by putting on a virtual reality headset.
As ever, the Conceptual Gardens promise to delight, entertain and challenge visitors in their perceptions of what gardens can and should be. Contemporary issues and themes, such as escape from conflict, are well-represented in this category: in Katerina Rafaj’s garden, Peacemaker, the landscaping symbolises life – a heartbeat – inferring the privilege it is to live in a country that many regard as a safe haven. The UNHCR ‘Border Control’ Garden takes a more literal approach, portraying safety and sanctuary as a lush garden, surrounded by an arid landscape of barbed wire.
Perhaps appropriately, given the show’s new sponsor, Viking Cruises, the Water Gardens have come back to the show. So too has winner of 2014’s Best Summer Garden, Jeni Cairns, who returns with the WWT Working Wetlands Garden – designed to combat urban flooding while providing wildlife habitats and a beautiful outdoor space for people to enjoy. The Clear Water Revival Garden offers and alternative vision of water use in the garden – crisp, hard landscaping combines with lush planting and a plunge pool to create a modern-looking watery retreat.
The world’s biggest annual flower show wouldn’t be what it is today without contributions from gardeners and designers from across the globe. The Japanese Summer Garden by Saori Imoto keys into the current zeitgeist with its representation of three important philosophies in Japanese garden design – simplicity, the beauty of shadow and asymmetry. The garden invites the visitor to understand how damp and shady areas of a garden can be enhanced by careful planting.