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A lawn unto themselves: The Inner Temple is to host its first flower show in 90 years

Emma Townshend
Sunday 03 August 2008 00:00 BST

If all the big flower events this summer have left you with a sense of ennui, I've got good news: there's a one-off special coming up that looks to be a veritable jewel box of a show: the RHS Inner Temple Floral Celebration in central London from 11-13 September.

"It's going to be a tea-on-the-lawn type of event," enthuses RHS's shows organiser, Bob Sweet. "Small and very select." Well, those of us who were punished in the crowds at Chelsea and Hampton Court certainly don't mind selectivity. The only problem is that tickets are already selling fast – with only 15,000 available, it would be wise to go online and snap one up quick.

Perhaps the show will attract a slightly more selective type of punter, too. Sweet is keen on the old-fashioned idea of a flower show, with less odd-shaped accessories and more historic cultivars.

There's a good reason for the emphasis on yesteryear: before Chelsea was even dreamt of, the RHS held its biggest annual show at the Temple, which is one of the four legal societies in London, and the celebration is a way of marking that relationship. The long road to the expensive show gardens of today began right here in 1888, when the RHS held the first of 24 flower shows in these grounds. This year, the RHS returns for the first time in over 90 years to mark the Inner Temple's 400th anniversary.

The organisers must be praying for an Indian summer, but whatever the weather, there are some delicious-sounding treats in store. A proper village moment is on the cards when the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies meets the Da Vinci Code for a display of flowers in the famous Crusader church, built by the Knights Templar; a more metropolitan feel will come with steel drummers poached from the Notting Hill Carnival and the Bollywood Brass Band; while the exhibitor stalls will be a keen reminder not to give up on the autumn garden – Botanic Nursery will have Digitalis, Hoylands will show off its Agapanthus, Tynings its passionflowers, and Raymond Evison, a world authority on Clematis, will present his own collection of historic cultivars.

Yet one of the nicest things is the quality of the garden in which it is set. Andrea Brunsendorf is in charge and, with the help of her team of gardeners, she has everything looking exquisite – though with the rare and distinguished trees they have to work with, it's not surprising. Echiums tower above 70m-long borders rammed with exotics, which are benefiting from the shelter provided by the ancient offices of hundreds of barristers. Tea on this particular lawn? Don't mind if I do.

Golden oldies: On show at the Temple

Pennard Plants will be showing an eclectic range of vegetable varieties. Get the look with its 2,000-year-old Salad burnett or 17th-century rampion (seeds from £1 a packet).

HW Hyde specialises in lily hybrids; for the old-fashioned look, choose Lilium auratum(five bulbs for £6.75).

The Museum of Garden History will also have a stand; don't miss its show, this autumn, about the life of Beth Chatto.

Winchester Growers will be showing treasures from the National Dahlia Collection. Try its "Bishop of Llandaff", which qualifies as "heirloom" though it dates back only to 1927 (cuttings, £1.99 each).

Read Emma Townshend's new column at

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