This year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is shaping up to be every bit as colourful and spectacular as regular visitors have come to expect. This year’s event takes place from July 8-13 and attractions include a Plant Village with 20 stands to browse, an orchid display and a Growing Taste marquee featuring a vast selection of freshly grown, edible produce.
There will also be a number of show gardens on display, with many of them designed by emerging stars in the gardening world. As well as nurturing wonderful plants, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show cultivates green-fingered young talent too, so let us introduce you to a few gardeners to look out for…
Aged just 21, Jack Dunckley is something of a gardening sensation. Jack exhibited his first show garden at Malvern aged just 14 and has since been awarded seven Royal Horticultural Society Medals, including Silver Gilt at both the RHS Hampton Court Palace and Chelsea Flower Shows. He is the youngest ever winner of a medal at the Chelsea show.
At this year’s Hampton Court show he’s gunning to go one better and secure a gold medal with his Journey Through Retirement garden, designed in collaboration with his sponsor Just Retirement. “It’s a walk through garden with visitors going on a journey through different stages of life. You end up at the ‘retirement’ stage in a tranquil pavilion setting with a beautiful vista looking back on where you’ve travelled from,” he explains.
Jack has made regular appearances on TV, popping up on Gardeners’ World, the BBC’s Hampton Court coverage and alongside his gardening hero Alan Titchmarsh. “I was always inspired by Alan and going on his show was one of the greatest things,” he says. “He is ever so down to earth and he is one of those people who comes across on TV exactly how he is, it’s not an act.”
Jack loves the buzz of TV work and would welcome the chance to do more, however he also says he’s got plenty of day-to-day work to keep him busy. When not taking flower shows by storm, Jack runs a garden design business and a six-acre nursery in Birchfield, Sussex.
And he says, if people are keen to follow in his footsteps the best thing to do is simply go out into the garden and start getting your hands dirty. “It’s all about confidence, gardening and growing, stuff,” he adds. “Once you get a bit of a confidence you can pretty much grow everything.”
Follow Jack’s progress at justretirement.com/flowershow
Rachel Parker Soden
Those who attend the flower show at Hampton Court for the sedate charms of the English garden might be in for a bit of shock when they happen upon Rachel Parker Soden’s garden. Part of the ConceptualGardens display, which this year takes the seven deadly sins as its theme, Rachel’s garden inspired by the sin of lust. Her design explores both the beauty of flowers and their function to reproduce, an exploration that takes place within a “brothel setting” complete with red lights and neon signs.
“I liked the idea of the RHS show visitor becoming a voyeur on the sex life of plants, and the idea of confronting people with the garden,” she explains, with a laugh. “I’ve gone quite cheeky and it’s quite provocative with the garden becoming a red light district, with lots of red plants.”
Rachel admits her garden might be too grown up for some of the youngest visitors to Hampton Court but she says the flower show does a great job at catering for the next generation of gardeners. “The ConceptualGardens at Hampton Court gives young people the chance to engage in something that’s artistic and cool, rather than just being set up like a suburban garden.”
The festival is a home fixture for Rachel, 35, who lives just down the road from the palace, and it also happens to be the place where she studied garden design with KLC in 2012. Since completing her studies, she has established her own garden design business with clients in London and the Home Counties, but says she would love some work in Spain or Italy if there are any ex-pats out there who require some horticultural expertise.
Like Rachel Parker Soden, Amanda Miller, 27, is exhibiting a Conceptual Garden at this year’s show, and the sin she’s been picked to bring to life is pride.
She decided she would use her garden to present pride’s double meaning, aiming to show both it’s positive and negative side. At one end of the garden there will be an artwork that depicts people constricted and blinded by pride, while at the other end the idea of pride being about freedom and a celebration of who you are will be the central theme. This bright side will be shown through lots of plentiful, free planting of colourful flowers.
“I always wanted to do a garden that represented gay equality and this is the perfect opportunity to do it thanks to the sponsorship I’ve had from [campaign group] Stonewall and the grant that is given by RHS,” she says. “The ConceptualGardens challenge the boundaries of what a normal garden is. As a designer you have the space to create a bit more and tackle controversial issues, targeting a specific audience.”
Amanda is from Australia and first developed her love of gardening and the great outdoors in the Bush. She moved to Britain five years ago after a stint in the navy. She is based in Thames Ditton, and has been running her own garden design business for the last three years.
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from July 8-13. For a full list of attractions and for booking information, visit rhs.org.uk