In front of Allium bistro is a giant bug, surrounded by some pretty planters designed by different gardeners. The bug is like something out of District 9; but the planters are mesmerising – I could have photographed them for ages. Jekka McVicar has created a wildflower planter with ammi and poppies and daisy-like wildflowers. I really like the Union Jack palette with a dash of yellow; it’s pretty without being girlie.
Now for girlie, you want to look at the planter by Ann Marie Powell. There are pinks and lilacs and it’s all very textured and fluffy and gorgeous. There are other planters, including the third one below - a sexy, bright number from Toby Buckland. If you didn’t go to the show, these are brilliant, inspirational ideas to recreate at home.
Further along were a row of hen coops. Decorated by people from Nikki Tibbles to Philippa Forrester, they were a cheerful addition to the show. I did like Philippa’s simple hen coop the most, but perhaps I'm biased towards the woman who used to wear multi-coloured chunky cardigans and introduce children’s television programmes from the CBBC Broom Cupboard.
Inside the celebrity speaker tent was a catwalk show. I thought it would have galoshes and wellies and cool trousers that have lots of pockets, but these models looked far too smart to be gardeners. I think the screen behind is a clue.
Remember I said in the gardens post to make a note of the entry sign? Well, look at this cheeky flower bed and picture-pretty shed by Pennards. I am a strong believer in breaking down gender stereotypes and I support the Let Toys Be Toys campaign…but I’m afraid to say that this shed brought out the inner Barbie in me! I was drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. A friend saw a picture of it and showed me a photo of her shed, which is almost the same, but pale blue. It’s lovely, and as she said, kind of looks like a beach hut – which is no bad thing. Have you seen the beach huts along the seafront in Hove? Oil painting-worthy.
Moving to the Roses and Floristry Vintage Tent, and it’s all a Technicolour riot of pinks and yellows, 50s fashion, and the sweet smell of roses. Pride of place goes to a display in hour of Lady Marmalade, Rose of the Year for 2014. It is a warm orange-pink with huge, show-stopping blooms. The roses surround a mannequin in a coordinating 50s style dress and a Singer sewing machine. It’s a brilliant and simple display. I can’t believe just seven or eight years ago, I claimed I didn’t like wearing orange. More fooled me – just look at that dress!
There’s a floral tea party that the March Hare and Mad Hatter would be right at home in, a couple dancing to a jukebox, a young woman’s boudoir, and the girl from The Seven Year Itch herself. I think Marilyn would have loved it.
The Jane Packer team have created a dreamy high street with a perfume shop, flower shop, tea rooms and a hat shop. It looks so perfect, like a pastel-coloured set design for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or the recent Populaire, which are both set at the end of the 1950s. If only the team could be in charge of regenerating high streets in Britain – they’d get people back in local shops again in no time!
Naturally, a rose tent wouldn’t be complete without roses. Aside from the award-winning Lady Marmalade, there were displays by an array of rose growers, including Harkness, Peter Beales, and the Historic Roses Group. Here are some pink Lakeland roses by Harkness in the foreground (I didn’t note the name of the red rose in the background), and displays across the tent. Followed by Burgundy Ice and Chevy Chase, which are both very striking, in hot pink and purple.
David Austin Roses won best roses exhibit and another gold. Another sumptuous display, with an inviting table with a hand-tied, cake and tea, and wonderful roses including the pale lilac-pink. Spirit of Freedom and the hot pink Heathcliffe.
I saw one of my supervisors and had a lovely catch up. Ann Saxby has been working for the company for 41 years, has a rose named after her, but was originally only supposed to work there for two weeks! Despite all of the awards and praise that has been poured upon the company and the amazing work she has done at the shows, she was still emotional when she found out that they had won at Hampton Court this year. I think it’s so lovely that she still feels the energy that comes from a compliment like this:
I asked if I could share a photo of her here and she said yes. So here we are, getting in people’s way in the roses tent! She and Jane Williams may be a hundred miles away in Albrighton, but it’s good to know they are still my rose mentors when I see them.