As the exhibitors put the final touches to their floral displays in preparation for this afternoon's judging - in the welcome shelter of the marquees as the rain pelts down outside - I spotted some treats on the exhibit being staged by Rosy Hardy of Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. Rosy always creates a stylish display - for many visitors it's their first stop - and her circular exhibit of beautifully grown perennials features some intriguing newcomers.
Campanula ‘Jenny' was supposed to be launched at Chelsea but, as it turned out, it wasn't quite ready. But it's here at Hampton Court and covered in flowers. The pure white bells, which face outward and upward, are sparked by a ring of deep blue round the base of the flower. Then on the back of each flower there's a blue stain around the stalk and as the flower ages the colour seeps towards the edge. Lovely, and very prolific.
Also on the stand is the big hit plant from last year's Chelsea, a spectacular bicoloured form of Salvia patens, with huge blue-and-white flowers; it's called ‘Dot's Delight'. This is one of the best new half-hardies of recent years.
Hardy's also have a new dahlia - and it's clear that dahlias are big at this year's show. ‘Candy Eyes' has bronze foliage which makes the perfect background for the single flowers which are pale lavender pink with white edges to the petals and are especially vivid, with a slight cerise cast to the central stripe, when they first open.
‘Candy Eyes' was raised in New Zealand by the eminent dahlia breeder Dr Keith Hammett, who also breeds clivias. polyanthus, dianthus and sweet peas. It's one of his Mystic Ladies series of dark-leaved dahlias, look out too for the red ‘Scarlet Fern' and the yellow ‘Knockout', though I've not seen them here at the show. I'm not quite sure why the series is called Mystic Ladies, the names of the individual varieties seem to have nothing mystic of ladylike about them at all! ‘Candy Eyes' looks superb, though.
Check out the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants website for more on these tempting new plants.