The best new plants to watch out for at the Hampton Court Palace Festival
One exhibitor, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, has attended every Hampton Court flower show since its inception 30 years ago. Rosy Hardy is ably assisted by her secret weapon, aka her husband Rob, and this year she’s the Master Grower, with a big show right in the heart of the Floral Marquee.
Rosy brings a wealth of plant material and spontaneously assembles her display by examining the detail of each flower, like an artist at work. The orange stamens, on a pink plant, are positioned within sight of an orange or peach blossom. A white flower, with purple veins, is found near a stunning cool, but there are always some light reds as well, as that anchors the color palette.
Rosy creates a rainbow of colors, a very relevant theme considering the contribution NHS staff have made over the past year.
Garden classics include Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’, a fragrant pale pink phlox with a dark pink eye. This will pick up a fully double, vibrant magenta campion named Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardeners’ World’, a plant that I always associate with the late and late Geoff Hamilton.
The exotic flowers of Digital x valinii ‘Firebird’, a robust isoplexis x digitalis cross developed by John Fielding, oscillates between pink and orange, much like the robes of a Tibetan monk.
“Firebird” will ring with a recently released red-streaked red Crocosmia named “Firestarter,” which is part of the Firestars series. This Isle of Wight creation was bred by Paul Lewis, who deliberately chooses moisture and winter resistance. The blues of the tactile paper will include Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, surely one of the most useful summer verticals, and a favorite of the spiky sea holly, the electric blue Eryngium x zabelii ‘Jos Eijking’.
The new arrivals of the floral tent
Just at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to the Hampton experience are the Lincolnshire Pond Plants. They are here for the very first time, exhibiting water lilies and a whole range of aquatic plants. It’s a nod to Hampton’s past, when water gardens were very present, and I predict that one or two dragonflies will be drawn to Long Water.
Bean Place, a Kent nursery run by husband and wife team Tim and Anita Waters, is also under the marquee for the first time, although they have been exhibiting outdoors for 20 years. Previously, these experienced horticulturalists sold their nursery-grown perennials at flower shows, so the pandemic called for urgent restructuring. “We had to adapt by selling online and we now open the nursery three days a week.
The lockdown break has allowed them to continue developing the nursery show garden, which is on heavy clay, a project that has been going on since 2002. Anita “waits for the time”, but she will definitely have a range. of heleniums and asters on it endure.
The aptly named Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Glow in the Dark’, a tall ‘Calliope’ plant found at the Avondale Nursery near Coventry, is her favorite plant right now because the pink-purple flowers appear iridescent after dark.