I can't quite believe that I am writing a blog about the Hampton Court Flower Show. This is not markontour's natural territory. But having failed on the promise to learn how to salsa that was the mainstay of my 40th birthday present to Ms markontour, I felt compelled to follow through with sharing an Xmas present of tickets to the aforementioned floral festival. I have to admit, I rather enjoyed it.
I certainly wasn't expecting to be inspired to spend half an hour thinking about shortcuts across the universe, but the stunning Wormhole Garden captured my attention even before I'd enjoyed a couple of plastic cups of over-priced (is there any other sort?) Pimms. This is the kind of garden that could make a prog-rock album cover and, indeed, it was entered in the 'Concept Garden' category.
There weren't many actual flowers on show and yet it gained a gold medal, so I need to have a look at the judging criteria, but the effect of hundreds of fire-red stones surrounding a moat of light-absorbing black rock really did create the powerful sense of a giant red star collapsing into a black hole which the blurb promised. At the centre of all this was a five metre high grass-covered pyramid with four differently coloured and inter-connected windows. These represented the wormholes, mainstays of science fiction as super-highways across galaxies, but at Hampton instead offering altered images of hordes of amateur gardeners as they wandered by, looking for bargains on secateurs and those foam pads the green-fingered use to avoid knackering their knees when they're weeding. It was fun and transfixing enough for markontour to get properly distracted, although when I try inter-stellar travel for real I do hope the rest of the galaxy is a bit more, well, varied.
Adjacent to The Wormhole and closer to the present day was the Near Future Garden, in which we were invited to imagine the impact of climate change on our fragile little planet. Cue more blackness, this time in the clever form of a swirling vortex of black water, symbolising all that dirty oil we shouldn't be burning. But surrounding was a message of hope, in the form of plantings that reflect how gardeners are adapting to an over-heating world and beautfiul wooden sculptures depicting the solar, wind, and water power alternatives to those nasty carbon-emitting fuels.
If this all sounds very serious, then it got more so in the Inner Demons garden (two painfully twisted trees, their roots exposed, stranded on a rocky island just out of touch of the beautiful flowers stretching to reach them across a moat), and the refugee garden, which featured barbed wire and security gates, not the kind of accoutrements you generally find in the garden centre.
Colour, joy and throw-away vibrancy was, however, not far away. Indeed, there was an Ally Pally sized flower shop, including whole stalls selling a single variety of beautiful blooms. It was a bit overwhleming for markontour, so I slipped away to have a look at the kids competition, where the exam question appeared to have been to design a scarecrow inspired by British astronaut, Tim Peak. My favourite was this lurid green model, which I reckon would scare away a lot more than just birds, although I did also like the Major Tom-crow.
There was also an incredible high-line garden, with helter-skelter strips of lawn undulating in the air. For about five minutes I was determined to copy the idea back at markontour HQ, until the garden designer explained that he had to water the grass for two hours a day to keep it alive in its inch-thick soil.
Finally, there were the urban gardens, designed to give the city dweller a bit of inspiration, and the international gardens. I loved both the Scandanavian entry (a little wooden rowing boat moored up by a campfire and a hobbit-home), and the Inca garden, where I learned what quinoa looks like before it is threshed and dried. Apparently the Incas grew it because of its hardiness and so it's one of those crops, like potatoes, that can easily transfer for southern to norther climes. I feel there may be an addition to markontour's vegetable patch, although I'm only responsible for digging holes, so a higher authority will need to make that decision.
So, flower shows: a good thing!