Glossy Gardens: RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival

PENNY McCORMICK previews the floral extravaganza, which starts tomorrow, with particular interest in two show gardens with Irish links …

 

Fabulous flowers, glorious gardens and dazzling designs displayed on the grounds of historic Hampton Court Palace, a stone’s throw from London, is a go-to paradise for fashionable foodies (who can forage dine with Michelin star chef Merlin Labron-Johnson) and global garden lovers, who can scoop up the latest looks and ideas, from the environmental to the exotic. The Duchess of Cambridge will be recreating her “Back to Nature” garden which is sure to be a crowd favourite, and in addition legendary garden designer Beth Chatto will be honoured with a posthumous “Horticulture Hero” award.

 

There are also 23 inspiring show gardens, one of which is “The Dream of the Indianos”. This is a flamboyant Galician pleasure garden by award-winning designer Rose McMonigall, who is of Irish descent. This garden revives the spirit of 19th-century adventurers who travelled to the Caribbean to make their fortune, returning home to north western Spain to build hospitals, schools and libraries for the community and lavish mansions and gardens for themselves, with new, exotic plant varieties. These were the Indianos. McMonigall’s garden comprises a pretty pink Galician mansion, with a double staircase sweeping down to a clipped topiary, and parterre with over 250 plants, surrounding a white marble water feature. Two signature phoenix palms dominate the space, softened with traditional Galician plants – camellias and blue mop-head hydrangeas – as well as luscious canna lilies and yew.

 

Says McMonigall: “I was spellbound by the story of these dynamic people who made their dreams come true, returning to their Galician homeland to create their personal, paradise gardens. Quite a few of these gardens have been lost but you can still sense what these once glorious spaces would have felt like as now giant palm trees stud the landscape. The mansions themselves give an enticing glimpse into the once-lavish lifestyles led by the Indianos.”

 

Meanwhile the “Urban Pollinator Garden” buzzes with easy design ideas to recreate in a small city space, while helping the environment. Created by Caitlin McLaughlin, RHS Young Designer of the Year (2016), its strong biodiversity theme is mixed with bee-friendly features and naturalistic planting. Campanula and Digitalis, in calming purples, whites and pinks bloom in the beds, with extra colour flashes from other flowers. Crab apple trees give architectural structure and provide spring pollen for bees while the shallow cobble pond is the perfect place for bees to drink.

This compact wildlife garden will be relocated to a hospice after the show and rebuilt with the support of its sponsor Warner’s Distillery, co-owned by Tina Warner-Keogh (niece of Irish knitwear designer Lainey Keogh). Warner’s Distillery runs multiple conservation and sustainability projects across the UK including “Operation Honeybee”, a series of initiatives designed to fortify the UK pollinator population, by planting wildflower habitat in the countryside home of Warner’s in Northamptonshire, as well as offering education and training to local colleges.

Caitlin McLaughlin’s tips for attracting pollinators to your garden:

  • Create habitats within the garden design – don’t leave thinking about pollinators until after the garden is finished, build in spaces for them to nest as part of the layout. This way wildlife becomes a key aspect of the garden rather than an afterthought.
  • Create sculptures as habitats – a habitat wall or solitary bee nest need not be a rustic, messy space at the back of the garden. Incorporate Bee Bricks or Bee Posts for sleek grey habitats in your garden, or build your own to suit your style.
  • Think about your material choices – if you are creating a contemporary garden using grey sandstone tiles, why not use these to create bumblebee homes as well.
  • Help keep the pollinators in your garden hydrated by providing a shallow pond or water bowl for them. Using metal tanks or powder-coated water bowls create contemporary features in your garden that also help the bees.
  • Plan your planting with pollinators in mind. There are so many perennials, shrubs and trees that help bees so regardless of your garden style you will be able to find options that suit you and nature.

Need to Know: RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, July 1 – 7 2019;

www.rhs.org.uk

Penny McCormick

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