If I have to sum it up in a personal, non-professional reviewer kinda way, I'd say the gardens were much better at Chelsea and the overall feel was much more expansive and relaxed at Hampton court. I'd definitely do both next year, if I can. The great thing about Hampton Court is that we could take the boy and he rode in the baby backpack the whole way, making friends with passerbys, and squealing whenever he saw anything exciting - which was quite often.
The boy shows his appreciation
The Conceptual Gardens:
*Spolier alert. I am conservative, boring and traditionalist, and therefore prefer my gardens unmessed about by concepts, but can see why they provide a useful starting point for thinking about different ways of looking at outside space.
I thought that the 'Picturesque' garden was pretty good. This 'aims to evoke the works of specific artists or genres through planting'. I thought this got a hard time on the BBC where they complained that the 'pictures' didnt look exactly like their inspirations. To me, if you step back and take them in from a distance, just as you do in a gallery, they really did 'evoke' the spirit of the original works.
Great concept. Unfortunately failing in its execution in my view. This was supposed to be an 'allegory of the dilemma of diversity rooted in the conflict of Aghanistan'. I was really hoping that this would speak to me. However, the 'western' side's planting looked pretty much like the 'Afghan side' and neither looked much like Afghanistan's reality. The track looked fairly authentic but then again, a dirt track isnt that hard to create. They could have done so much more to fully bring this concept to life. How about, for instance, making the Afghan side of the wall Hesco Bastion (or mud brick) and the western side plastered. How about mixing papaver rhoeas with papaver somniflorum to show the differing meanings of the poppy to western and Afghan eyes - memorial and livelihood. I would very much have liked the designer to run their design past someone who had been to Afghanistan. Unfortunately I dont think they had.
A bit like Chelsea, these were my favourite. There were a lot that included a mixture of vegetables and ornamentals. This is a concept that has been kicking around for a year or two but the new look seems to be a real intermingling, rather than a couple of rows of red lettuce in the middle of a border. How well this works, both in terms of the veg getting enough light, and the gaps that are left after a harvest, I remain to be convinced of, but I think the message is - watch this space.
The potential feast - a slick urban take on the whole 'veg as ornamental' look with nastutiums and tumbling tomatoes on top of the wall and salads growing in the frames on the wall. In my garden, I think the cats would destroy the wall top plants!
The 'Five a day garden' - demonstrating how the longer root runs afforded by containers allow a higher yield
Wild in the city - the only garden swarming with bees at 10am. Very pretty. I especially like the green roofs on the bug houses.
Things loved by the boy:
A bronze Cheshire Cat - part of the Alice in Wonderland display
Other things I liked
Agapanthus White Heaven - in loads of gardens and huge!
A garlic roofed house - very tasty!