The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The last day of the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2007

bee enjoying RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2007It’s the same every year. Danny gives me tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show on Valentines Day. It’s a romantic present that has my friends shrieking with envy until they hear that Danny doesn’t come too.

This is fine with me. Danny is a twenty minute man when it comes to exhibitions and shows. He springs through the entrance on full throttle, hovers momentarily beside anything that appeals and parks beside the best coffee stand on the site. After that it is back to the car (parked in the shade) and the Sunday papers. If I linger too long the drive back home is a white knuckle Michael Schumacher winning experience, without the smiles and champagne.

So when he proffers the tickets I ring my sister and we mark our calendars and agree that we will leave really early to get the best out of the day. We never do. I collected her at 11.15 this morning and the trip took three hours. I am beginning to twig that the AA route time estimate of 2 hours 1 minute must be how the AA birds fly.

Fuelled by freshly cut sandwiches from the Cottage Smallholder Kitchen we grab our water bottles and clamber onto the free Park and Ride bus that drops us on Hampton Bridge.

The walk to the show ground seems so much shorter than the totter back to the pick up point at the end of the day, laden with plants and must have buys. After an impatient wait, we press onto the bus, now filled with 10 times more plants than people. We all crouch under a jungle of roses, twiddly metal things, grasses and nodding exotics. When the bus stops we cannot see beyond the lilies and potted ferns.

Today, a dark man gently parted his 15 litre pot of bamboo to speak to me.
“Are we here? Is this the car park?”
I was barely breathing beneath a small but heavy lead bird bath, and could only lift an eyebrow.
Desperate he adjusted the volume.
“Can anyone hear what the driver is saying?”
We all sat tight. Eventually someone forced their head through the undergrowth and recognised a landmark. As one we got up and gingerly descended, a motley collection of plant lovers laden with the spoils of the last day of the Hampton Court Flower Show.

Beetle like we picked our way across the busy road. When we found the car, we scoffed the last of the sandwiches. As we glided towards the M25 we spotted pedestrians dwarfed beneath armfuls of plants and gardening paraphernalia. On the motorway we are overtaken by mobile greenhouses disguised as cars doused with Eau de Formula 1. These roars settled down after a few minutes and my sister dialed Danny’s number as he was expecting us back shortly,
“We promised steak for supper. You might like to make your own.”

Thanks Danny. It’s the perfect present.

  Leave a reply


  1. Amanda

    It certainly has! Though not for a very long time…

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara

    It’s a great present and we always have a good day. We didn’t actually buy much this year. Just birthday presents for each other and a few plants at the end.

    Hi Pat,

    I can never work out whether I prefer Hampton Court to Chelsea. Both have their pluses but you can’t beat the last day of Hampton Court, it’s so much more relaxed.

    Hi Joanna,

    You are absolutely spot on. I met someone recently who found a marvellous, comfortable B&B just off Oxford St for £48.00 a night so we are thinking of staying there next year, the night before Chelsea. I’ve managed to get there early when I was living in London. It’s so much more enjoyable if one can potter before the crowds overwhelm the grounds.

    The lead bird bath is at my sister’ house (her birthday present). It’s very pretty and actually quite small. I’ll take my camera next time I visit.
    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Amanda,

    This clearly has happened to you too!

    Hi Kathleen,

    Thank you for your generous comments, I am so pleased that you are enjoying the site.

    Our plums will not be ready for six weeks. The plum chutney is tasty and keeps very well.

  3. Kathleen

    I just found your charming site, having googled “plum chutney recipe”. (It looks delicious, by the way). I came for the chutney, stayed for the raspberry vodka, and am now envious of the Hampton Court excursion.

    –Just wanted you to know that even a reader in sunny (and plum-laden) California is enjoying your site very much.

  4. Amanda

    Paragraph 2! tee hee!

  5. Joanna

    Sounds like the perfect day out … romantic, too, to be given EXACTLY what you want (even if he doesn’t come) because so many men have no idea – you see them, looking desparate, in shopping malls just before Christmas.

    It really is worth getting there early. I’m not a morning person, so it’s surprising to get this advice from me, but next time, really try to get up and at the gate at opening time. You’ll have the place to yourself. At Chelsea this year I had the whole of that enormous floral marquee to myself for nearly an hour, in which time I had proper conversations with the proprietors of three nurseries. I then looked at a couple of show gardens, and by the time everyone else had arrived, it was time for a coffee (no queue, later you couldn’t get near the place), and look at the guidebook to decide what to do next with all the rest of the crowds. Bliss, and well worth the effort of a 6 am start.

    Looking forward to seeing photographs of birds on the lead birdbath


  6. Sounds like you and your sister had a great time. We have been to Hampton court a few times and it is lovely seeing all the different plants. Enjoy your treasures!!!

  7. farmingfriends

    Sounds like a great day out. What a lovely gift.
    Looking forward to hearing and seeing more about what you bought.
    Sara from farmingfriends

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