Internationally acclaimed Dutch landscape designer, author and plantsman Piet Oudolf has created a wild-looking meadow-style garden for the first time at the show - and has earned himself the inaugural RHS Horticultural Hero award.
Famous for planting swathes of grasses that snake through bold drifts of herbaceous perennials, Piet's walk-through garden sits opposite Hampton Court Palace, providing a show-stopping array of mid-summer colour.
The design features dominant matrix planting of Stipa barbata, better known as feather grass. The perennial grass bears rolled, linear leaves and even produces small clusters of flowers from early summer, followed by silver seed awns.
As well as feather grass, Piet’s star plants include Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty', which features dark-centred, copper-red flower heads, Allium 'Millennium' with its round heads of purple star-shaped flowers and Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in Pink', noted for its pale-pink flower plumes.
Other key elements of the planting include Echinacea pallida (pale-purple coneflower), Delphinium 'Cliveden Beauty' (spires of light-blue flowers), Centaurea 'Purple Heart' (purple-centred flower heads with long white florets), Nicotiana langsdorffii (panicles of nodding, light-green, long-tubed, bell-shaped flowers) and Eryngium alpinum (a sea holly with large purple flower heads, surrounded by vivid-blue shiny bracts, held on blue stems).
Look familiar? Piet's borders acted as a stunning backdrop to one of Jo Wiley and Joe Swift's scenes for the BBC coverage of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
Small ideas to take home
While Piet has worked on high-profile designs around the world, he said his garden at Hampton Court offers inspirational ideas to encourage visitors to adopt a more naturalistic approach to planting in their own gardens.
Piet said: “I’m sure that people will be able to pick out combinations of plants that they like. Or perhaps visitors will say that they have never planted grasses on such a scale, and that it looks good. There are lots of small ideas to take home.”
The renowned designer explained that his planting style had evolved from high-impact but short-lived flower-filled gardens in the 1980s to permanent planting that offers interest throughout all four seasons.
Piet believes that his planting style is in tune with the current trend towards sustainable gardening, using herbaceous perennials that attract bees, butterflies and beneficial pollinators – as well as plants that form seed heads in autumn and winter, making them both ornamental, and a vital food source for wild birds.
Where to see some of Piet Oudolf’s finest planting:
Hauser & Wirth, Somerset – a gallery of emerging and established contemporary artists that’s home to the Oudolf Field, widely regarded as one of Piet’s finest large perennial meadow planting schemes.
RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey – the Glasshouse Borders follow a ‘rivers of plants’ theme, based on a concept devised by Piet Oudolf. They were planted in 2001, mostly comprising North American prairie species and offer 10 months’ worth of interest.
Scampston Hall, North Yorkshire – the 18th-century walls of what was once a kitchen garden are home to a series of gardens masterminded by Piet Oudolf, including a perennial meadow, serpentine garden, silent garden, formal summer box garden, cut flower garden and drifts of grasses.
The High Line, New York, America – this one-and-a-half mile-long disused elevated railway has been transformed into an elevated urban park, featuring Piet’s trademark naturalistic planting comprising of grasses and perennials.