It also housed Mary IIs magnificent collection of exotic plants, unrivalled in late-seventeenth-century England, and displays ofbeddingwhich, in the nineteenth century, drew almost two million visitors a year. Its attractions are not less today. Most people know about the great vine, the oldest in Europe, planted by Capability Brown in 1768, but few are aware that if you come in the first week of September you may be lucky enough to be able to buy a royal bunch of grapes (which are particularly thin-skinned and sweet). Everybody knows the maze (and no one can remember whether you should always take left turns or right turns to get out from the middle). Equally famous are the spring bulbs in the wilderness, that wonderful, wild display of colour which is an irresistible draw for small children. These are just a few of the many curious and beautiful things to see in the palace gardens, which draw more than a million visitors a year, more than any other garden in Britain. To this catalogue of achievements we must now add the Hampton Court Flower Show. DINING VOUCHERS When the idea of the show was first conceived I was among the sceptics. For a start, I liked Chelsea: it was the best and most glamorous flower show in the world; everybody and everything was there; and we didnt need another show, especially in Hampton Court park where visitors and cars would make a terrible mess. The first years show tended to confirm my fears. It was a trade show; and it wasnt about horticulture, it was about making money. But all that has changed. Last year 162,000 people descended on Hampton Court park to savour the atmosphere of the fastest growing show in England.



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