Imagine being surrounded by countless flowers. The sight of them a treat for the eyes. Their smells a delight for your nose.

As the largest flower show in the world, that is exactly the kind of experience the Hampton Court Palace Show can offer you each July. A Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) event, this year’s flower show takes place today until Sunday 14 July. But how did this event first start? Let’s have a look!

The Flower Show’s Origins

While it is currently one of RHS’s prized events, the show was actually not created by the Society. It all began in 1990 when the management consultant Adrian Boyd had an idea. Hampton Court Palace, like other Historic Royal Palaces, needed a way to increase revenue and attract visitors. Similarly, Network Southeast, a temporary aggregation setup by the pre-privatisation of British Rail, also needed to make its services more profitable. Boyd’s idea could help both. He suggested that Hampton Court host a flower show sponsored by Network Southeast. The rail company would also provide public transport to the railway station at Hampton Court.

But would the little idea work?

The stage was set for July 1990. Hampton Court Palace was ready for its first ever flower show. Special trains were laid from Waterloo Station in London to Hampton Court. Porters were getting in on the fun by wearing carnations in their hats. Sure enough, this effort to attract visitors worked! Network Southeast claimed that 70% of the estimated 300,000 people at the show used their services. This successfully paid for their sponsorship many times over. And Hampton Court had the visitors they needed!

So how did RHS get involved?

In 1992, Network Southeast decided to withdraw sponsorship. RHS took this opportunity to make a successful bid to take over the show. The first ever RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show took place in 1993. Since then, it has developed into the world’s largest flower show. That very first year, there were only 265 exhibitors. Last year, there were 600!

Who would have thought that Boyd’s little idea to help two organisations would become such a treasured annual tradition!

What is the flower show like?

Famous for its British Rose Festival, the show consists of spectacular flower displays. This year will be the first year to feature themed zones for you to enjoy: Inspire, Grow, and Escape. The Inspire Zone will inspire your own home garden. Among displays such as conceptual gardens, celebrity designs, and a hands-on area, it will feature low cost, but high impact gardens to create at home.

Whether or not you have a green thumb, if you have your own home garden, you will want to check out the Grow Zone. The zone will offer tips and hold hand-on demonstrations for growing and caring for flowers and plants.

If you are looking for a little “getaway”, the Escape Zone is a must-visit. Not only is it a paradise for shoppers, but you can take a walk through the butterfly zone or travel back in time to the 50s at the Rose and Floristry Vintage Festival.

At home

If you’d like to learn more about the gardens and exhibitors on display without a trip to the actual show, you can visit the Official Site. You’ll be able to see garden designs and find links to the exhibitors’ sites. Some of the exhibitors may be from your area, and you can pay them a visit!

Happy gardening!



Photo credit: Laurie Redstone (CC BY 2.0)