A few years ago, when Boy Lacer was at nursery, so still home part of the day, we went for a walk around the grounds of Hampton Court, the flower show happened to be on at the same time and as we struggled going the opposite direction to the massive crowd all heading towards the show, a very kind stranger called out to be and gave me a spare ticket for free. You can see the blog post of that day here, me and Boy Lacer had a great time. So I’ve always wanted to go back but each year I’d see the ads for it, put off buying a ticket when the ads appear in the spring, due to feeling broke and thinking “I’ll buy one when I get paid”, never do it and then miss it. But this year me seeing the ads must have coincided with me getting paid recently, as I did buy a ticket, umming and ahhing only slightly whether to get a weekday or a weekend ticket, aka ‘do I bring the kids with me or not?’. I made up my mind to go for a weekday ticket quite quickly, figuring it’d be slightly less crowded, I wouldn’t have to take any time off work (most of my work hours are at the weekend, I’m very antisocial) and I wouldn’t have to put up with any whinging, if I wanted to spend 10 minutes looking at alliums, I could.
But you know I think I regretted my decision not to bring the kids pretty much as soon as I walked in, not that Hampton Court Flower show is some massive kid friendly destination, it isn’t (although I suspect it may be more kid friendly at the weekend), it’s just the even with the whinging and the guaranteed chorus of “We’re huuuuungry” every time you pass a food stall, even if they’ve just eaten and Boy Lacer working out how long till he can go home pretty much as soon as he’s arrived, they’re fun to be with and they see things in a much more refreshing light.
But I made the most of it, specially once I managed to finally locate the show gardens amongst all the many, many, many stalls flogging stuff. My favourite show garden was this
And in general the gardens I was drawn to were the ones with water, specially if it was running water, so cooling. I also liked the gardens with added shade and shied away from the ones that looked like sun traps, I own a sun trap garden and at this time of year, even in England, the garden is unusable at mid day because of the heat. Overall though I didn’t think the gardens were quite as good as the ones I saw in 2010.
An added surprise bonus was seeing a talk from Kaffe Fassett, now that is something I would not have been able to do if I had had the kids with me, they would have been a wee bit bored, specially Boy Lacer. I’ll admit I only went because when they announced the talk I was nearby and thought I’d be letting the crafter in me down if I didn’t go and see it. And I’m glad I did, I’ve always liked Fassett’s work (although some of it is a bit too colourful for my tastes) but having seen him talk I’m much more of a fan now, he’s a very interesting person. He talked about his career and how he went from art to knitting, to needlepoint and to quilts and how he likes scale and colour in his designs. He showed some of his needlepoint and I unsurprisingly particularly liked that. He also talked about how much he liked the UK, even with our grey phase in clothing and he praised the audience for the amount of pink we were wearing, which included me, as for once (for me) I’m wearing a pink top today. It’s a faded pink silk shirt with a large scale rose print, which I don’t wear much. I couldn’t have picked a more Kaffe Fassett top out of my wardrobe if I tried thinking about it.
All in all, this year was not as fun as my first visit to Hampton Court Flower show but considering that was an unexpected freebie, perhaps that’s not that surprising. I think it’s a bit sad that there seemed to be more space devoted to flogging gardening stuff than actual garden stuff, however even with that I still think it’s better than Chelsea Flower Show, which is so crowded you can’t see anything. And I’ll admit re: the commercial side of the show, as much as the flogging gardening stuff side did not interest me that much, I was still drooling over greenhouses (the nice sort with the brick wall bases, miles away from a greenhouse from Wilcos) and I did end up buying some lavender to refill our old lavender beds (I’m going ambitious this time, going for five different varieties, aiming to recreate (a little) the look I saw on the lavender stand at the show) and a new basil plant, but in my defence those were purchases I’ve been meaning to get round to for some time. And in the completely shameless impulse buying category, I bought two small vintage crates, one of which is stamped with ‘silk and threads’ and the name of a shop in Bethnal Green, which happens to be where my mum’s side of the family originate from, so I couldn’t resist.
I’m glad I’ve got the ‘I must go back to Hampton Court Flower show’ out of my system, it’s going to stop me drooling over the ads every year now, at least for a while. If we stay in this area (which we very much hope to do, house prices permitting), I’m sure today will not be the last time I visit the show, if I ever got a slightly bigger garden and a bigger budget, it would be fun to visit and go completely mad on the inspiration and the plants (although bigger garden + staying in the area unfortunately does not compute). And if/when I do go back, I will take someone with me this time, I am the sort of person who is perfectly happy in her own company but things like Hampton Court Flower show are much more fun to share.