Eden steps into the breach with butterfly spectacular for Hampton Court

The Eden Project's butterfly biome at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show (July 9-14) took just 11 weeks to plan and build after a last-minute phone call from the RHS persuaded Eden landscaper manager Paul Stone to step in to fill a place vacated by Diarmuid Gavin.

Irish designer Gavin dropped out late on because he could not raise the sponsorship for a chocolate-themed extravaganza that would have filled 18 shipping containers with plants.

Eden Project Mediterranean supervisor Catherine Cutler said: "We only knew we were doing this 11 weeks ago. The RHS approached the Eden Project, saying the pitch was vacant because Diarmuid Gavin has pulled out and could you do it as a biome like at Eden?"

She added: "It's good for us. If you have a year to plan like what is usual you spend longer doing the same steps, so at least we could crack on. There were lots of emails going back and forward to organise it but that's what Paul Stone is brilliant at. He's done so many shows."

The aim is to allow the public to experience life in the rainforest canopy within the 25m diameter, 9m-high biome. The two-week build with five staff on site, required digging to to a depth of 2m. "Thousands" of plants, including many nectar plants for the 3,000 butterflies have been planted, Cutler added.

"Some pot plants came from markets and the big stuff came from Palmbrokers greenery hire in London, and we brought a van load of plants from Eden," she explained.

Unusual plants featured include the carnivorous pitcher plant, the amorphophallus Titan arum, the myrmecodia ant plant and the vanilla orchid complete with pods.

"It was good to be able to get some of our own plants in, otherwise it might have looked a bit like a houseplant showroom," she added.

"We've got a Rainforest Aerial Walkway opening at Eden in our rain forest biome so this will give people a taste of that and get them to come down to Cornwall. That's the main reason we're here."

RHS shows director Stephen Bennett said: "At the rate tickets are selling, we will beat our visitor number figure for the whole of the show last year (130,000), including walk-ups, before the show starts on Tuesday. We're expecting 153,000 visitors."

The show will include eight show gardens, eight conceptual gardens, four low-cost, high-impact gardens and 15 summer gardens. The floral marquee will house 100 nurseries.

Other features include a magic wonderland-themed BBC One Show garden designed by competition winner Victoria Stothard, a retirement garden from TV presenter Chris Beardshaw and a garden made from plastic to show the dangers of disposal of packaging from cleaning product firm Ecover.

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