Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Today begins the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is held in the grounds of one of the very finest royal palaces, resonant with history. It is also the biggest flower show in the world.

Detail of show garden, It's Hard to See, at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, 2010.Today begins the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is held in the grounds of one of the very finest royal palaces, resonant with history. It is also the biggest flower show in the world. I know this because I've read the Royal Horticultural Society advertisements and also because I've walked every inch of the show grounds on innumerable occasions over the years and still manage to get lost.

This year, as I have for the last few years, I will put on my important hat and will be judging some of the gardens. I thoroughly enjoy this process, even though I know that some people will be unhappy with their medals. I do, however, have great faith in the judging system and I think it generally works very well.

For those who wish to know, here is a simple guide to the RHS judging process…

It all begins with the brief, a document submitted (along with detailed drawings) by the designer during the selection process. The brief details exactly what the garden is supposed to achieve: who it is for, what sort of soil, what hard landscaping, which plants etc etc

On the day before the judging the gardens are visited by a team of assessors. They minutely examine the garden and award points in five categories; whether the brief has been realised, impact, design, construction and planting. The planting is the most important and carries a possible 30 marks out of 100. In order for a garden to be awarded a Gold Medal it must earn 75 points or more.

The next day the judges go round the gardens armed with the assessors' recommendations. There is then lively discussion and debate and a decision is reached. Sometimes we agree with the assessors, sometimes we do not. Then there is a vote: medals are proposed and hands are raised. You may have seen it happening in photographs or on television.

That is not the end, however, as walking around with the judges is a moderator. This is an experienced judge whose job it is to keep an eye on us and make sure that our voting is consistent. After judging we all retire to a tent to eat bacon sandwiches and go through the whole process again. At this point the moderator can question the judges' verdict and call for another vote: in which he - it is, at the moment, always a he - and the other moderators also have a vote. This can change things quite dramatically.

So that is what I am doing on this sunny Monday. Hopefully, many of you will come along to the show and see if you agree with our decisions.

(The picture, by the way, is of last year's winning Conceptual Garden, It's Hard To See by Rebecca Butterworth, Victoria Pustygina, Ludovica Ginanneschi. It was a spectacular winner and I hope to see its equal at this year's show.)

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/07/2010 at 16:06

If a brief is a bit poor (do you remember the Chelsea garden a few years ago that had rhododendrons atop limestone pillars?) isn't it possible for the RHS to tell in advance whether a garden will be in the no middle/bronze/silver etc. category, even before the garden is made? Sheila Averbuch -- Stopwatch Gardener

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2010 at 08:52

Hi can anyone tell me why my curly kale leaves are turning yellow? we have been watering during the hot spell but this has not helped. Also they do not seem to be growing. thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2010 at 21:52

Does anyone know the name of the piece of classical music that featured in last weeks episode at Lamorran House?

Gardeners' World Web User 07/07/2010 at 14:36

Great article. I hope I can get along to it. Best, Sheila

Gardeners' World Web User 08/07/2010 at 20:01

Programme is good, but I do not see why the cookery part should encroach in it to pad the programme.

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