From Barren Ground :: Building A Show Garden

A week ago, I was at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which was awesome, obviously. Today, I’m super excited to tell you about a show garden that, although not as spectacular as any of the ones at Chelsea, is certainly a big deal for me. If you’re free on Sunday 4th June and in Norfolk, please try to make it to the Easton College Open Day to see a show garden that I’ve been involved in creating, titled: ‘From Barren Ground’.

I’ve been building the garden with an amazing bunch of gardeners. Working with you all has been such fun, James, Josie, Kate, Neal and Richard! Our show garden has been a labour of love, built and planted on a lifeless piece of barren ground, with a minuscule budget.

The site was filled with thistles and awful, compacted, stony, clay soil. I’ve never had such a hard time just digging a hole! It’s made me so grateful for the sandy-loam I usually work in. We begged, borrowed and stole repurposed anything we could lay our hands on to accomplish a garden that I would be thrilled to have at home.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get it looking good for show day. We’ve been urging the plants to flower for us at just the right time. Rabbit-proofing has been vital, and I’ve found myself laying awake at night worrying that one of the little blighters has managed to get in! Fingers crossed it will all be looking perfect on Sunday.

The garden is a quiet place to sit and relax, surrounded by flowers and foliage. It’s a place to watch bees in, and just be in. And if you like the look of it, do get in touch to see if we could create a space as magical as this for your garden.

The design

In a small space, simplicity is the key to good design. The garden is symmetrical, with a pair of benches, half in and half out of the borders, facing inwards towards the water feature, with its dainty, solar fountain. A path of Yorkstone, set in golden gravel, contrasts with the black-stained fences, trellis and benches. Height is provided all year round by four steel obelisks, handmade in Norfolk by Carl Annison, that anchor garden’s square layout. This is a garden that is full of movement, with dancing flower stalks, light bouncing off the pond, and the waving branches of a Himalayan Birch tree, whose bark will shine white in winter.

The planting

The borders of this garden are flower-filled in a cool, tonal palette of pinks, purples and white. Although the garden’s layout is symmetrical, the planting is less formal to create interest and surprises. Climbers cover the fences, trellises and obelisks, including Jasmine, Sweet Peas, Clematis and Morning Glory vine. Flowering spires of Salvia, Foxgloves, Eryngiums and Irises reach up out of the borders, through lush, herbaceous perennials, evergreen Heucheras and Ferns. Tiny grasses and alpines are dotted through the gravel. And Ragged Robin and Equisetum stand tall in the central pond.

A haven for wildlife: As soon as the plants arrived, bees and bugs made it their home. It has been transformed from barren ground, to a garden teeming with life.

A place for wellbeing: This garden offers rare sanctuary from the busy outside world. Here, you can sit in peace, enjoy the flowers, and take time to just be.

A wallet friendly design: This is a low budget garden. The benches were constructed from pressure-treated timber, and the trellises from steel rebar (concrete reinforcing bars). The pond is a recycled cattle trough.

A case for simplicity: The materials used in this design are just steel, timber and stone. It shows how good design can be achieved with the simplest of materials.

I’d like to say an extra special thank you to the following contributors to our show garden: Norfolk Quality Plants, Notcutts, Sandy Lane Nursery and Swallow Aquatics.

I’m feeling very proud and excited to show our garden to the public on Sunday, and hopefully I’ll see some familiar faces there too. It’s going to be a fun day, with not just gardens to see, but a whole campus full of activities for the whole family, including tractor and trailer rides, bird of prey displays, a sheep rodeo, a climbing wall, a BBQ, and much, much more. You can even bring your pets!

**UPDATE** So thrilled and delighted to tell you we won Best Show Garden, voted for by the visitors to the Easton College Open Day! It was such an awesome experience, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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