Wednesday, September 20, 2017 9 comments

Rose heaven at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

I attended the Chelsea Flower Show in May 1992 while we were living in London. That year, a Silver Medal was awarded to a garden called Gothic Retreat. If I saw it, the plants and design have completely slipped my mind. You see, I was so gobsmacked by the enormity of the show and the variety of blooms, I didn’t know which way to turn.

I trained 'Cottage Rose' as a climber
That year a hybridizer named David Austin introduced three roses I later grew in my Maryland garden. ‘Cottage Rose’, ‘The Dark Lady’ and ‘Evelyn’ remain among my favorites.

Mr. Austin was not new to Chelsea:  in 1983 he unveiled two of his new, old-fashioned “English Roses” to the world, ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘Mary Rose’.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A sea of Austin beauties
A year earlier, I was a volunteer for the Royal National Rose Society at the second Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. That year the British Rose Festival made its debut in the show. And I believe it was during that event I was stricken with a rare disease called “English Rose Fever”. I can assure you there is no cure.

So imagine my excitement after 26 years to be returning to Hampton Court and the amazing rose marquee!  My expectations were high and I was not disappointed. 

'Jacqueline du Pre"
The 2017 show was overflowing with hundreds of varieties of roses from the old fashioned ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ to the Rose of the Year 2018, ‘Lovestruck’.Thankfully for my bank account, I was not able to bring any roses home. (Other visitors had special carts to hold their treasure trove of new bushes that they took to the “flower crèche” to be tended to while they bought more plants.)

Since my first visit, Hampton Court has grown to become the largest flower show in the world.  The extravaganza is spread out over 34 acres where more than 140,000 people wander around oohing and aahing for four days.

Eastcroft Roses

Peter Beales Roses

The Gold Medal for Best Rose Exhibit is below the statue

The first show boasted 265 exhibitors; this year there were over 500. There was something for everyone from alpines and orchids to rare succulents.

Delectable samples from the Cook and Grow booth
I wonder if I can grow Painted Sage in the mountains?

The 40 show gardens were quite impressive, especially The Blind Veterans UK display (Two top photos below).  It take a minimum of three weeks to set up a show garden and five days to break them down.

Photo courtesy BBC Two

The Oregon Garden
Michael Marriott
My friend Michael Marriott of David Austin English Roses told me it takes them about a month to get all the bushes ready for prime time at Hampton Court. This year's Gold Medal winning display featured over 700 roses, and 1000 more were available for sale.

But enough of my rambling. Take a look for yourself.

I wish this blog were scratch and sniff. Enjoy!