RHS Hampton Court Show 2008

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is one of the biggest and most spectacular of the flower shows, second only perhaps to Chelsea.

The Royal Horticultural Society's annual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show took place this year from 08 - 13 July.

While I've been to the Chelsea Flower show before, I'd never been to the Hampton Court show previously, so I really wasn't sure what to expect, particularly as the Hampton Court show is traditionally considered to be the poorer cousin of the more prestigious Chelsea show.

I certainly wasn't disappointed, if anything, I preferred the Hampton Court show, but my reasons for this may be a little biased.

Unfortunately, due to a rather unfortunate accident a few years ago, I have been rendered wheelchair bound. While this didn't present any direct problems with attending either of the shows from a practical viewpoint (they are both extremely wheelchair accessible), it did lead to a few issues that I wouldn't have previously considered.

Beware the Crowds at Chelsea

Chelsea Flower Show had crowds like you wouldn't believe! Even my companions, who were both able bodied, found it a difficult and a rather unpleasurable experience and would seriously think twice before attending again.

My own impressions were far worse. Being seated made it very difficult to see anything, trying to peer through a sea of bodies to catch an elusive glimpse of the show gardens, and trying to navigate my way through the throng without taking too many ankles out was virtually impossible.

Hampton Court however was an altogether more pleasurable experience, as I managed to get there on the press day (the Monday before the show officially opened to the public on the Tuesday) and as such there were far less people around.

Having said this, I suspect that Hampton Court, even on a busy day, would never be, or feel, as congested and claustrophobic as Chelsea as it's hosted at a much bigger venue (33 acres compared to Chelsea's 11 acres).

So, if you don't like crowds, I would certainly recommend the Hampton Court flower show over it's posher cousin Chelsea.

On Show

So, what was the show actually like?


The first thing that you notice as you enter the show was a long line of scarecrows entered by various schools into the scarecrow competition. Children were also a significant theme in the rest of the show, with a few of the show gardens being designed specifically with children and education in mind.

Show Gardens

The show gardens were spectacular as you'd expect, although while Hampton Court probably has a lot more show gardens than Chelsea (certainly of the smaller show gardens), Chelsea definitely has the edge, with that little extra panache, particularly with the bigger gardens.


There are the usual array of stalls selling everything from a pair of garden secateurs to garden gazebos the size of Wembly Stadium.

Flower Displays

The two flower marquees were very impressive, although again, I would have to say that Chelsea probably did have the edge on them. Nevertheless, they were also very useful places to shelter when the heavens opened.

In Summary

In conclusion, I would have to say that I preferred the Hampton Court show to Chelsea even though the quality of displays at Chelsea were just that little bit better.

Hampton Court is much bigger, there's more to see and you won't feel packed in like cattle compared to Chelsea. If you're travelling by car, Hampton Court is also a better option, compared to Chelsea, being in the centre of London.

I hope to give Chelsea a go again next year, but on press day if I can arrange it. It will be interesting to compare the two shows on a like for like basis, on which I hope to report back here again next year.

If I had to take just one thing from this year's Hampton Court show that stood out, I would have to say Olive Trees! Olive trees seemed to be used in quite a few of the garden designs, maybe as some sort of nod towards global warming. I wonder what next year's fad will be?


A selection of show gardens from this show have been added to our gallery of photographs in the show gardens section.

For more information see:
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2008


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