Gardening: Green thumbs in England

Taking a trip to Great Britain between April though September? If so, plan to take in one or more of the eleven garden shows put on by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was started at the beginning of the 1800s and has evolved from a London Garden Club to a internationally renounce charity with approximately 800 with over 1000 volunteers and over 490,000 members. The RHS maintains four show gardens with the fifth in development, carries out research, runs a horticultural school and puts on eleven flower shows between mid April and September.

Each show has its own unique venue which sets the stage for the show. The Chelsey Show, is one of the best known flower-show but the show at Hampton Court is now the largest.

The RHS’s show at Hampton Court is located just outside of the castle proper grounds making it easily assessable by train, bus, car or boat. Poor mobility? No problem as smooth metal walk ways lead and direct people through out the grounds and on both sides of the water. With the large numbers that attend these events the walkways are a must to protect the ground and keep people dry when it rains.

Areas along the walk ways are filled with temporary gardens and pavilions of all sizes. The gardens are created a week before the show by some of the best European landscapers and they don’t disappoint. Ponds, unique artist created sculptures and structures were balanced with plants big and small.

Worried about not remembering the names of the plants? Then pick up a professionally printed brochure from each garden.

Note all gardens are not ornamentals. A large area is allocated to vegetables and community gardens. The produce in these gardens are mouth watering.

Roses have their own venue, a large canopy that is filled with every color of rose possible. The smell within the area is amazing.

The floral tent is filled with imaginative arrangements. For those looking to learn more there were people demonstrating the art of floral arranging.

Interspersed amount the gardens or in their own enclaves are vendor tents. Most products are garden related but others showcase English designers and artists. The textile tent, contains four long rows of vendors that appeal to all budgets.

Looking for garden tools? There is something for everyone from self mowing lawn mowers to kneeling pads. Some of the suppliers are local to the UK but others can and do ship world wide.

A number of the more unique tools are available through Lee-Valley tools.

Thinking of adding a greenhouse to the yard? Take the time to wonder through he dozens of styles and sizes on display. Literally there was one for every budget.

Part of the Royal Horticultural Society is to educate. The exhibit which walked people through the evolution of plants from the ones that reproduce by spores to the complex flowers drew most peoples attention causing a bit of a lineup through out the day

Each show has a line up of speakers. Note times and make sure to arrive early to obtain seating. Regardless how good the speaker is, it is hard to stand and listen for an hour.

This year entry into the show was £33 if purchased in advance, online. Plan to come arrive when the open 10:00 in the morning or later in the afternoon to take advantage of the late entrance discount. Seeing everything on offer might not be doable in one day. For £5 one can purchase a guide book at the show and plant the day before heading off with the masses.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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