Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hampton Court - the fun side of flower shows

Several people asked me if I went to the Hampton Court flower show. I sort of did - and didn't.
I was working on press day, so it was Thurday by the time I got there. One of the reasons I wanted to go was to pick up some cannas from Keith Hayward. And it marked the first day of my holiday, so I felt in festive mood.
I'd taken some cash to pay for my cannas, but by the time I got to the canna stand, I'd spent it all. So I had to go to the cash machine and get some more. The cash machines weren't working, so everyone had to queue up at the bureau de change windows and do their transactions manually. It took me 20 minutes to get to the head of the queue.
If you wanted more than £50, you had to show ID. Had I got my passport with me, asked the man behind the counter. Oddly enough, my passport is not the first thing I think of slipping in my pocket when I go to a flower show, so no, I didn't. I eventually persuaded him that I was a responsible, solvent member of society and he handed over my cash. He also charged me £2.50 for the privilege of standing in line. You can always trust a bank to ruin your day!
By the time I'd faffed around at the mobile bank, spotted some bargain Chinese pots that I just had to have, picked up my cannas, and made several laborious journeys to the car with my various purchases, it was time to go home. So I didn't see any of the show gardens - but hey, I had fun. And that's what Hampton Court is for, in my opinion.


Here's a chrysanthemum display in the Floral Marquee, where I spent most of my visit (and most of my money)


I don't grow bonsai, but I always love the displays. This one was fabulous. Going on a public day made me realise how privileged I am to be able to go to shows on press day - it was really busy, and it was quite difficult to take pictures.


For me Hampton Court is a fantastic opportunity to see flowers that are at their best in mid to late summer, such as these lilies.


These dahlias, exhibited by the National Dahlia Collection, were spectacular and thoroughly deserved their gold medal. The display was designed by Mike Mann, their new operations manager, who used to be with Winchester Growers, one of the UK's biggest dahlia specialists. If you think this is a wonderful display ...


 ... here's the other side. And there were two more sides as well! It was a good illustration of how sticking to a particular colour range can provide fantastic impact.


Downderry Lavender, from Kent, deserved a medal simply for scenting the whole marquee.


There are so many tempting things on offer at Hampton Court. I loved this fountain, designed by Humphrey Bowden, and inspired by acer leaves. Luckily it was WAY out of my price range,


Hampton Court visitors are always determined to get into summer celebratory mode and have their Pimms, come rain or come shine (or black clouds).


Isn't this an adorable henhouse? One day...


Jubilee fever is still going strong, now overlaid with Olympics fervour. That is, unless you live - and drive, or work - in London, in which case everyone seems to be in a thoroughly bad temper.


My favourite canna stand! I bought 'Wyoming', which I think is a bit more subtle than 'Durban', and C. musifolia, which has olive-y green leaves with a bronze edge, so it looks good with 'Wyoming'. You don't really get flowers with musifolia, but it's a wonderfully exuberant plant.
So what else did I buy? The same old, same old, really: more heucheras from Heucheraholics ('Sweet Tea' and 'Electra'), two Mina lobata (which I meant to grow from seed but never got round to it), and a colocasia.
The Mina lobata (aka firecracker vine) was a bit of a drawback. People kept asking me what it was, and how you grew it, and whether it set seed, or whether you could grow it from seed. I didn't mind that, because I like chatting to people, but they were big plants, on canes, and I kept poking myself in rather tender places. Worse, I poked a rather grumpy woman in the leg, and she told me I had no business inflicting injuries on other visitors and I should take them back to the car forthwith. So I did.
However, if anyone is interested, they grow as annuals in the UK, and they are unlikely to seed themselves around in the garden because they need a good deal of heat to germinate.
You can buy seeds (from Thompson & Morgan) and the packet will tell you to soak the seeds in warm water for at least 24 hours to allow germination to start. In my experience, the best thing is to pour BOILING water on to them, and leave them for a couple of days. You can see very clearly which ones are viable, because the seeds will start to swell and even split.
Once they start to swell, you can plant them up in seed compost in the normal way. Don't plant them too early in the season unless you have a greenhouse - they will just get very leggy and tie themselves in knots long before they are ready to go outside.

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