Whilst not as internationally famous as Chelsea, Hampton Court Flower Show is the world’s largest flower show. It covers an area of 34 acres set inside the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, one of Britain’s oldest and most notable royal palaces.
But the Show itself is not old at all. It was created in 1990 by Historic Royal Palaces in collaboration with the rail company Network Southeast and taken over by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. The first show had 265 exhibitors, rising to 600 in 2012.
Taunton Flower Show is the oldest and longest running flower show in Britain, held for the first time in 1831. However, even this one is not the oldest in the world. That accolade is given to the Philadelphia Flower Show, run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which opened its doors in 1829.
I’ve been trying to find out exactly how many flower shows there are in the UK, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive guide anywhere. Wikipedia lists 39 shows around the world, (Category:Horticultural exhibitions), but organizes them alphabetically, so you don’t know which country they’re held in unless you go to the website of each one.
Flower shows and horticultural exhibitions do seem to be a particularly English preoccupation, consistent, I suppose, with our national obsession with gardening.
Hampton Court Flower Show this year was as wonderful as ever. In the words of the Show Catalogue, the gardens “…are both inspiring and realistic. They unite design and planting ideas for all types of gardeners, whether you live in the middle of a city or in the countryside.” We were especially moved by the feature garden in the Grow zone, called the Lest We Forget Garden, inspired by the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.
If you didn’t go this year, try to go in 2015. It’s well worth a visit.