Christian Aid Seed of Hope Show Garden

Christian Aid's Hampton Show Garden, Seeds of Hope, won the Tudor Rose Award - the highest award for a Show Garden. I was pleasantly surprised by the judges' decision: the distinctive West African garden was dominated by vegetables and structures, and had a strong political message - not the obvious recipe for an RHS favourite.

 Some of the African plantings in the Seeds of Hope award-winning garden.
Tropical African Flowers & Plants

The Seeds of Hope Show Garden's award demonstrates how well the designer, Claire Whitehouse, managed to integrate a powerful message with a beautiful garden.

The village scene, dripping with colourful tropical flowers such as cannas, bougainvillea and ipomoea, also explained how international trade laws affect economically struggling countries such as Senegal.

The African Garden

The garden's tale was told in three sections - a market garden, a market scene and a cafe. The market garden's carefully-tended vegetables included fragile vegetation such as African aubergines, peanuts, cowpeas and okra.

The neighbouring market scene, set amongst traditional thatched buildings, just needed a Senegalese crowd's hustle and bustle to go with the colour and variety of the produce for sale.

The flowers painted a vibrant picture onto the arid scene and walls of Cafe Baobab. Blue-violet ipomoea climbed the cafe's walls up a trellis made out of recycled flip-flop rubber. A fruiting orange tree, a banana tree and a canna provided the lush foliage base to the tropical colour palette.

The RHS haven't included full plant lists in the event web information this time - shame, as it was a useful educational resource when identifying favourite plants and flowers at Chelsea.

Fruit & Vegetables at a Flower Show

Including vegetables and fruit in an RHS garden was an uncommon but well-timed design feature. The theme complemented Hampton Court Flower Show's new fruit and vegetable marquee, opened at this year's event in the final weekend. It also appealed to the public's increased interest in self-sustainability and growing vegetables. Kwame Kwei Armah, a British celerity play-write and actor, gives his recipe of Senegal's national dish using these vegetables.

Gardening for Good

Sponsoring a Show Garden at the Royal Horticultural Society events is a popular profile-raising activity for the active UK charity sector. The exhibiting charities often reflect the topics which the visiting 'target group' are most likely to sympathise with, such as health, children or the environment. Christian Aid, on the other hand, is a UK-based international development agency which funds projects and campaigns for change to political policy - rather radical for a middle-England gardening crowd!

Perhaps for that very reason the Seeds of Hope garden was so refreshing - a glimpse of West Africa's colourful nature in our very own Hampton.

Fruiting Orange Tree & Canna LeafFruiting Orange Tree & Canna Leaf...
The orange looks tempting, peaking out from behind a thick green leaf. The canna leaves' strong stripes are quite dramatic.
Growing African VegetablesGrowing African Vegetables...
The market garden section of the show garden displayed the vegetables in a grid to conserve water. There are tomatoes, African aubergine, chilli, cow peas, millet, peanuts, red onions and white radish.
Yellow  & Red African FlowersYellow & Red African Flowers...
I love the papery delicacy of these African yellow blooms. Make sure you view the picture full-size to appreciate the detail fully! There red in the background is the bougainvillea.
Canna LeafCanna Leaf...
The strong stripes along this canna leaf show up as the light shines through.
Red Hibiscus FlowerRed Hibiscus Flower...
A beautiful bright red hibiscus flower - a common sight in Senegal.
Hibiscus & Hardy BananaHibiscus & Hardy Banana...
Another view of the Hibiscus flower, with the Hardy Banana leaf behind.
Purple Climbing IpomoeaPurple Climbing Ipomoea...
Purple Ipomoea climbs the recycled flip-flop rubber trellis.