This week the RHS (Royal Horticultural society) show in Hampton Court is on. As always, even the days for members only are packed. It helps to know what you are looking for. I knew I was after bulbs to plant in containers for the front garden for next year and also some chrysanthemums ready for autumn flowering. I was also hoping to get one or two special plants, not available in ordinary local garden centres.
I had brought along a shopping bag on wheels and a small knapsack, so my purchases would have to fit in those. I was not intending to buy with the spend-a-lot frenzy of those who fill the large trolley boxes, and there were plenty of those trundling towards the exit when we arrived in the late afternoon.
Avoiding the queues for Carol Klein’s garden (as featured on Gardeners’ World), I headed first to the gardening for wildlife section. What impressed me about the displays there was the expanse of green, lots of leafy plants with wavy small flowers above (in contrast to the more showy floral displays elsewhere). There was useful information alongside such as a helpful list of plants for wilding.
There were items placed among the plants that assist insects, such as piles of logs or trimmings. One “garden of rest” looked like a large-size nest, constructed of large bush branches, curving around a double stone seat at its heart.
Working with schools
Near this was a space devoted to the RHS programme with schools:
“The RHS believes that nurturing a passion for plants and our natural worlds does wonders for children and young people as it can improve their physical and mental wellbeing, confidence, self-esteem, teamwork and communication skills and understanding of the environment and sustainability.”
This year the school projects exhibition focused on bug life, “bugs in a barrel”. A number of fantastic barrels were on display. They all used similar steel drums (the ones of 240 litre capacity, that used to be used for conveying oil or other chemicals) painted bright colours according to fancy. This seems to be making a visual argument that planet-harming chemicals can now be replaced with habitats where wildlife thrives. Within, around and above these steel receptacles, the schoolchildren had constructed various actual and symbolic objects to encourage the bugs.
I noted nearby at least two stalls that showcased participation from Surrey. The local bee-keepers had brought along their bees, buzzing around in a glass globe, besides lots of large wall posters about bee-keeping.
A map of Surrey
There was also a stall with a large map of Surrey. I took a photo of that as I have been having difficulty ascertaining exactly which towns are in Surrey. Notably Hampton Court, near the town of East Molesley, in the district of Elmbridge, is just inside the county of Surrey. I picked up leaflets about nature recovery projects within the Surrey Hills, which is an area of outstanding rural beauty (AONB) (areas in light green on the map) which also has nearby areas of good landscapes views (AGLV) (darker green).
Although this map showed the main roads such as M25, A3 and A24) and the rail stations, disappointingly it did not show the North Downs Way or the cross-county cycle routes to Kent.
The leaflet for the Surrey hills volunteers advertised their activities by season, for example in summer: spreading green hay to establish wildflower meadows, and removing invasive species; in autumn: tree popping (removing hawthorn and silver birch); winter: hedge and tree planting for habitats, for dormice for instance; spring: hedgerow surveys, and so on.
I then went across the river to the floral tent, where there is a huge variety of sellers. Having made my planned purchases (the bulbs and the chrysanthemums), I then looked around for something out of the ordinary. After some dithering, I opted for a Dipladenia with a bright red flower. This is a tropical plant from Brazil that will do well on a sunny window sill, with showy flowers for about three months. I also boldly chose a Himalayan lily (Cardiocrinum) which should do okay in my shady bed as its native habitat is on the fringes of woodland. It was already about 75 cm tall with leaves and a bud. I gently manipulated it into my wheeled shopping bag, but the leaves and the bud still waved above it, thereby giving me a worrisome journey back protecting my Himalayan lily in the passageway of crowded trains. I am pleased to say it reached home with only two leaves snapped, but the bud still intact.