Posted by: Naomi Slade | July 7, 2011

Art and Edibles at Hampton Court

Flower shows are changing. Where RHS Chelsea has enthusiastically brought herbs and brassicas into the ornamental fold, so RHS Hampton Court now seems more design led. The formerly solid bastion of bouffant, naturalistic planting seems to have segued into sharp edges, clipped globes and concept-art.

There were, however, a satisfying number of productive-themed gardens which were, on the whole, rather good. I liked ‘An Urban Harvest’ with shady trees and coloured glass and I was very taken with Burgon and Ball’s ‘Five a Day garden’. Their smart woven-willow boxes leading up a flight of steps to a daisy-sprinkled deck had grow-your-own chic down pat.

The RHS were representing as well with the biggest exhibit of the show: The RHS Edible Garden. This mindboggling exhibit shook together nine edible areas including an olive and lavender field, hops and hop-pickers on stilts, a wheat field and food for free, as well as more standard fare of muscular brassicas and salad crops.

Inside the Grow Your Own Marquee the salad theme continued, juicy leaves dripping from every deck and sprouting temptingly from bowls in an ‘mmmmm, where am I going to find some vinaigrette dressing’ sort of way. Brogdale were promoting fruit growing – as were Copella in their pretty show garden outside – and The Garlic Farm had a rather nice garlic garden with a garlic roof on a (garlic) shed and… well… you get the idea.

Rather less yummy was the food-scape art display. With salmon seas, ‘trees’ of broccoli and celery, bread mountains (presumably no ironic ‘grain mountain’ pun intended) and illuminated garlic-bulb houses it was really, very, awfully post- Rodney Matthews, Roger Dean and Patrick Woodroffe style pop-art. Yet it lacked both their sci-fi charm and their darkness.

Tearing my eyes away from the album cover from hell exhibition, I scampered at speed to the other end of the marquee where I helped myself to an exciting looking catalogue from http://www.beansandherbs.co.uk, whizzed past Jekka’s herb farm to pick up some Vietnamese coriander, sea lovage and a packet of red orach seeds and home for tea and medals.

Discovery of the day: Apparently you can eat sow thistles and they taste a bit like chicory. Serves them jolly well right.

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