Shot! The Three Most Beautiful Blooms at the 2018 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Although Hampton Court is the world’s largest flower show, it’s the show gardens rather than the flowers themselves that attract the most interest and the most publicity.

With this year’s sweltering heat, the floral marquees were even hotter than usual. Stepping inside felt like stepping into a sauna, which no doubt presented a challenge to the exhibitors who had to ensure their blooms were at their very best for judgement day.

So what among the floral displays caught my eye?

Having got some great shots of chrysanthemums at this year’s Chelsea, my first stop was the National Chrysanthemum Society’s display.

I was immediately drawn to the green chrysanth Feeling Green as well as the picture-perfect Disco Club with its claret and white petals surrounding a lime green stamen.

Chrysanthemum ‘Disco Club'

By the way, the National Chrysanthemum Society was founded as long ago as 1846 in London’s Stoke Newington for “the cultivation and exhibition of the Chrysanthemum.”

Dahlia ‘Manhattan Island'

Next up were some equally stunning dahlias from the National Dahlia Collection. My favourite variety was Manhattan Island, a bold red hybrid with subtle hints of yellow.

Dahlia ‘Karma Sangria'

Another fabulous dahlia was the Karma Sangria being shown by Pheasant Acre Plants. This salmon pink and yellow flower was developed by the Verwer brothers and introduced in 1998.

Dahlia ‘Karma Sangria'

But as beautiful as the dahlias and chrysanths were, I think nothing at Hampton looked quite as pretty as the peonies shown by Primrose Hall.

Peonies are one of the most Instagrammable flowers and whilst they’ve been popular since Edwardian times, they are enjoying a renaissance thanks to Meghan Markle who carried her favourite flower in her wedding bouquet.

Although now seen as an ornamental plant, the peony was originally grown for its medicinal properties. The Ancient Greeks thought so much of its healing powers they called it the ‘Queen of Herbs’ with just about every part of the plant used to treat ailments including stomach complaints and labour pains.

The name derives from Greek mythology. Paeon, physician to the gods, angered his teacher, Asclepius, god of medicine, when he discovered the healing power of the peony. To save him, Zeus turned him into one of the plants.

Peony ‘Sarah Bernardt'

I loved the pale pink, double bloom Sarah Bernhardt, a variety first introduced in 1906 by French breeder M. Lemoine who named it after the most popular French actress of the day.

So those were my pick of the bunch at this year’s Hampton. It’s not easy to choose just three flowers among the thousands on display, but I think you’ll agree, these three are truly picture-perfect.

Chrysanthemum ‘Disco Club'

Behind the image: All these images were shot handheld with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and either the 12–40 2.8 Pro or the 75 1.8 lens using available light only. When photographing floral displays I’m always looking to capture an interesting composition, rather than just shooting the entire display. In most cases that works best by going in close, filling the frame and seeking out an unexpected angle. Shot at Hampton Court on 2 July 2018.

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Gary Marlowe

Gary Marlowe

Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people