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RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: Success for Kent's Charles Benton, Louise Roots and William Dyson

By KentOnline reporter

Words and pictures by Vikki Rimmer


The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is favoured over Chelsea by true plants people.  While Chelsea has the celebs and the headlines, Hampton Court is the place to gather genuine garden inspiration and discover new varieties which gloriously you can buy onsite and stagger home with!

The world's largest garden show, there is Kentish inspiration in spades at this year's event. Whether the endeavour is floristry, building award-winning gardens, producing great specimens for the Best in Show garden, creating new plant varieties or loaning plants from the garden of England, the county has it covered.

At the show gardens, a Maidstone company has helped to create and sponsor a garden designed to stimulate a thousand conversations about green spaces and mental health.

On The Edge was designed by Frederic Whyte and built by Charles Benton of co-sponsors Benton Landscapes which is based in Weavering, Maidstone

On The Edge was designed by Frederic Whyte and built by Charles Benton of co-sponsors Benton Landscapes which is based in Weavering, Maidstone

The garden On The Edge was designed by Frederic Whyte and built by Charles Benton of co-sponsors Benton Landscapes which is based in Weavering, Maidstone. 

"It is our first time at Hampton Court," said Charles Benton.

"The designer of the garden put the idea forward to create a garden based on mental health and to work with the centre for mental health.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace


"Mental health is a huge grey area and touches so many people in so many ways and that's what really drove me to construct and sponsor this garden. Along with the fantastic opportunity to showcase Benton Landscapes workmanship.”

The garden was awarded a silver gilt medal by the RHS judges on Monday.

Charles added: “It is a huge achievement and honour to win a silver. A lot of hard work, commitment and dedication went into this garden to produce the final product. I hope that all going to see the garden enjoy it and understand the story behind it.”  

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs until this Sunday. Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, the show takes place every year at Hampton Court Palace in south west London. More details here


There was plenty of other Kent success. Louise Roots, for Leeds Castle, was awarded a coveted gold medal and the title of Best Exhibit in Floral Design at the show for her 12ft tall wildlife haven inspired by the Culpeper Garden at Leeds. The highly-scented display filled with foxgloves, hollyhocks and alliums was created to attract bees and wildlife.

Kent horticultural star Tom Hart Dyke is on hand at the Hampton Court to explain the virtues of the gum tree in his role as president of the Australasian Plant Society (APS).  Eucalyptus specimens grown in Tom’s World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, near Swanley, are on loan to the APS stand in the floral marquee.  

Downderry’s heavenly display of lavender at the show

Downderry’s heavenly display of lavender at the show

The APS laid down its roots more than 20 years ago and is made up of people enthusiastic about growing Australasian plants here in the northern hemisphere.

The floral marquee is home this week to some of the best specialist nurseries in Kent including Brookfield Plants from Ashford, Graham Blunt’s Plantbase on the border of Kent and East Sussex and Downderry Nursery from Hadlow, near Tonbridge.

Downderry’s heavenly display of lavender won them a coveted gold medal. It took all the will-power I had not to rest my weary feet and lay my head on the purple beanbag nestled among the lilac, deep purple and white lavender varieties from Downderry. 

Madrona Nursery from Bethersden, near Ashford, was awarded a silver gilt for its stunning display of trees, shrubs and perennials.

Great Comp's William Dyson

Great Comp's William Dyson

The recent heatwave has produced more problems this year for the county’s growers with crops flowering and finishing earlier than expected. William Dyson, a star in his own right in the salvia world, was awarded a well-earned silver gilt  for the display nurtured at his nursery at Great Comp Garden in Platt, near Borough Green. 

William said: "We are delighted with our medal, especially as we had to do a last minute change to our design; the recent heatwave put our main display plants forward by two weeks which meant that at least 75% of them had to stay on the nursery!”

Despite the heatwave conditions William Dyson was able to offer new salvia varieties for 2017 including Little Azur, Pink Lace’, Blue Merced, Crazy Dolls and Passadena.

Grasses and foxgloves stood out at Andy Sturgeon's garden

Grasses and foxgloves stood out at Andy Sturgeon's garden

The highly coveted Best in Show award went to Zoflora and Caudwell’s Childrens Wild Garden designed by Adam White and Andrée Davies. Palmstead Nurseries, based in Wye, produced gold medal-winning plants for this restful space set in woodland with a shallow rock-edged stream running through it.

The plants provided by Palmstead Nurseries helped add colour and tranquility to the garden created for children with disabilities in particular Autism Spectrum disorder. 

A number of secluded spaces within the garden offered somewhere safe to relax – a key feature in designing spaces for children with ASD.  

A major trend at the show was the amount of twisted willow in many of the gardens

A major trend at the show was the amount of twisted willow in many of the gardens

Ahead of the curve: Gardening trends at the show

  • Twisted willow featured in several of the show gardens including Zoflora and Caudwell’s Childrens Wild Garden  and also Andrew Wilson’s design for the Blind Veterans UK Garden.

  • Drifts of wildflowers were everywhere!

  • Structures made from rusted Corten steel as seen in Metamorphosis designed by Martyn Wilson celebrating brownfield sites.

  • Grasses! They featured in most gardens but were impressive in Perennial’s  Sanctuary Garden and Andy Sturgeon’s RHS Watch This Space planted with foxgloves.

  • Colour! Above all, Hampton Court was a colourful place to be in 2017. Charlie Bloom and Simon Webster’s Colour Box garden provided technicoloured daydreams for passing plant nuts.

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