It was my first trip to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and I knew that it was going to big, but I wasn't quite prepared for just how big.
What I hadn't realised was that the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is the largest annual flower show in the world and there is so much more to it than you might expect.
My first surprise was just how glorious the setting was, even before we had reached the ticket booth the setting dominated the Flower Show in the most spectacular fashion.
Our tickets were waiting for us at the Thames gate and as we walked to the entrance the river flowed along on one side of us and a line of royal red brick chimney stacks followed us on the other.
Further along and we passed the part of the palace built for William and Mary in all its baroque glory. In front of it lay their formal garden and a beautifully wrought iron gate.
The entrance was just beyond this gate and without queuing we entered the Show.
My next discovery was more to be expected, at a flower show. I discovered flowers I'd never heard of before and unfamiliar varieties of flowers that I already loved. In the flower marquee there were the tall-stemmed eremurus in soft yellows and peaches.
Another stall featured only disas, a type of orchid. Their bright orange, pinks and yellows made such an impact.
I also saw lots of hydrangeas and lavender, in familiar and new varieties. The unusual varieties were so different that they proved a great conversation starter with other visitors. In particular I loved the white Lady Ann lavender and the hydrangea Miss Saori.
My Personal Top Five Show Gardens
The other main feature of the Flower Show that I had expected to see were the Show Gardens. This year there were 47 to explore and be inspired by.
Comprising of waves of grass, dog sculptures, a twisted hazel, representations of the ages of man and a rose with a surprisingly strong scent, my top five are a fabulous list of Show Gardens.
The list with pictures and my reasons for including each one is in a separate blog post on magazine.co.uk's blog page called The Hub. Please click on the link to check it out and let me know your own favourite gardens from the Show.
My next surprise at the Flower Show was a dome filled with exotic plants and butterflies and a winding path that led us through the dome in a circular route.
Inside were large and small brightly coloured exotic butterflies from South America and Indonesia. One fluttered onto my cardigan and paused a moment while I stood motionless staring at its bright blue wings. It fluttered off and our gaze wandered up and down following butterflies as they flew around a large ficus tree or rested on the hibiscus, lantana and canna plants.
Meanwhile outside the dome salvias, echinops, sedums, asters, phlox, and eryngiums had been planted to attract native bees and butterflies.
Closing Time Giveaways
Finally, it was time to go, everywhere there were signs that the Show was almost over. We could see displays being dismantled and boxes being packed up.
We headed to a marquee where the heat of the late afternoon sun had made the room incredibly hot. Ladies were walking out holding bunches of flowers and I saw someone on a stall filling a black sack with parts of a display.
At the base of the stand a blush pink peony lay abandoned. I wondered if perhaps I could take it home. The lady at the stand of Leeds Castle Florists from Maidstone very kindly selected some flowers for me to take away. I beamed with delight.
With huge thanks to magazine.co.uk for inviting me write a blog post for their blog page, The Hub and allowing me to do an insta-takeover. It was lots of fun.
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