For many of us garden industry insiders, May, June and July are the busiest months of the year. It’s ironic that the moment your own patch needs you the most is the time when you’re most likely to be away. For me it’s been Chelsea, Gardeners’ World Live and most recently, Hampton Court Flower Show, with Tatton Park to follow next week.
Having attended most of the major flower shows over the last eight years, I’ve become a bit jaded, I have to say; almost blasé, about the parades of horticultural perfection which pass before my eyes. It’s a sensory overload. However, one garden at Hampton Court this year blew me away. ‘Space to Connect and Grow’ , inspired in part by a threatened community garden in Peterborough, The Green Backyard.
Despite being made entirely from recycled materials, it was a genuine breath of fresh air (there’s irony in there somewhere, I’m sure…). But what is it that makes a show garden like this stand out? And what can we as gardeners learn from it?
Firstly, it had a beautifully simple, functional layout (for more on setting out your space, please see my very first blog. A small plot (much smaller than the average British garden), it just did a few things, and it did them well. A table, big enough for a whole family or group of friends to sit around, a generously sized stage (or patio) in the middle, with inbuilt seating around the edge. No fussy lawns or awkward corners.
Secondly, and most importantly, it was fun. Recycled oil drums bought a splash of colour, and there was room for performances of poetry, art and music too.
The planting was joyful, a riot of colour, masses of bright perennials, shot through with grasses to add movement and lightness. It was a garden to enjoy, generous to people, plants and wildlife – a world away from the clipped sterility of several more minimalist gardens nearby.
I think personality is a hugely important part of garden design, and having met the creators Jeni and Sophie, you could see their sense of fun and playfulness throughout. I left feeling happy, relaxed and inspired – what more could you ask for from a garden?