Ideas for museums, heritage and community spaces at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2018

Hampton Court glorious in the sunshine

I know it may look like a trip to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is just me enjoying the sunshine and celeb spotting but my visit was really so I could look out for ways museum can use their outside spaces not just as somewhere to relax but to tell stories and welcome diverse visitors.

Now my remit with the Heritage Lottery Fund means I am looking at a wider range of projects with communities at their heart, Hampton Court Flower Show also provides inspiration on community gardens. There are also great ideas for how the environment can help create safe spaces that ‘design out’ crime – perfect for heritage properties set in parks and large outdoor spaces.

The Flower Show is open from 2nd – 8th July and below I have highlighted 4 gardens that are well worth a visit –

1 – Battlefields to Butterflies

Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Parks Guild, designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan.

Battlefields to Butterflies
A space to evoke a moment in time.

Just as you enter via the Thames Gate Entrance you will see ‘Battlefields to Butterflies’, it feels wrong to describe it as a garden in the traditional sense as it evokes the trenches of the Great War. As you walk through the narrow, bleak entrance it is hard not to feel a connection to another time and place. I am sure many a visitor will whisper a silent prayer that they will never have to endure anything like the horrors of war in their own lifetime. As you walk through, the landscape begins to soften and the life begins to grow again as nature reclaims what was once a battlefield.

The landscape telling a story.
Commemorative plaque that will eventually go to Brompton Cemetery.

The garden pays tribute to the 24 men of the Royal Parks and Palace Gardens who lost their lives in the First World War. A stone plaque at the end of the garden unveiled at the show will go to Brompton Cemetery to form part of a permanent memorial to the parks, gardens and grounds staff.

Battlefields to Butterflies shows how the land can be used to evoke a mood, tell a story and take you back to another time and place. Seeing young children going through the garden chatting to a guide dressed in First World War uniform I found particularly poignant.

2 – RNIB Community Garden

Designed by Steve Dimmock and Paula Holland.

Seeing through another person’s eyes.

Museums are thinking more and more about how to become more accessible to visitors with diverse needs, but often they don’t think past their front doors. Sensory gardens are a great way to connections with nature and provide a calm welcoming space for all.

Water feature next to seating.

The RNIB Community Garden is not only a place where the community can come together but it has also been designed to allow visitors to experience what it is like to suffer from sight loss. There are panels throughout the garden that give an idea of the difficulties for those with glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Sensory planting

Plants such as Pennisetum villosum have feathery tufts that are great for edging paths and feel fabulous to touch. Also plants like Stachys byzantina “Silver carpet” have soft leaves which are extremely tactile, the plant is also drought tolerant which is great in this weather!

3 – RHS Growing Community Garden

Designed by John Wheatley

Community Garden bursting with colour

This brightly coloured garden is easy to spot next to the scarecrow installation. This garden shows how community spaces can bring together people from all walks of life. The garden includes a community space, shop, fruit and veg and plenty of plants for pollinators.

There are also ideas on re-using plastics and a display demonstration how beneficial worms are. I couldn’t get in the garden on the day as Jo Whiley was filming but you may see me lurking in the background on the telly!

4 – Secured by Design

Designed by Lucy Glover and Jacqueline Poll

Spiky plants underneath windows.

A very important concern for many museums and heritage properties set in parks, my final must-see garden is ‘Secured by Design’, created by Capel Manor College in partnership with the Metropolitan Police.

The intention is to have a relaxing safe space that also creates a secure environment. Features include prickly plants, such as Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea, under the windowGreen screens provide privacy but can’t be climbed and the pergola has bars across the top that rotate to prevent climbing.

Bonus Garden! No 5 – The Family Garden

Designed by Lilly Gomm

The Family Garden designed by Lilly Gomm
Contractors Bespoke Outdoor Spaces

I was going to stop at 4 but I have to also include the fantastic ‘Family Garden’, perfect for all those museums with a strong family audience. The bug wall was most impressive!

If you do go to the show my top tips are take a hat, sun cream and a refillable bottle as drinking water is freely available on site. If it all gets too much grab a Pimms and stick your feet in the Long Water, but don’t forget to spy some truly amazing flowers before you go!


The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show runs from 2nd – 8th July 2018 please see the website for ticket prices and opening times

For more information on the gardens follow the links –

Battlefields to Butterflies –

Designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

RNIB Community Garden –

Designed by Steve Dimmock

RHS Community Garden –

Secured by Design –

Designed by Lucy Glover –

Capel Manor College –

Secured by Design –

Family Garden

Lilly Gomm –

Bespoke Outdoor Spaces

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