I spent an inspiring day last week wondering round the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The show gardens were jam-packed with landscaping ideas, sublime planting schemes and new plants. These garden ideas can easily be taken home and used in our own gardens.
The Red Thread Garden
First of all, wondering through the Conceptual Gardens, I was straight away drawn to the Red Thread Garden. I loved it’s stunning planting scheme, with it’s subtle accents of red sanguisorba, rodgersia and nandina and contrasting foliage. These planting ideas would work really well in a shady area of your garden. I also loved the Cornus controversa or ‘Wedding Cake’ tree, which has such a beautiful shape.
I got chatting to the garden designer, Robert Barker. He had come up with a clever concept for the garden. It was based on the Chinese legend of the red string of fate. The myth states that everyone is born with a red string tied round their ankle. This links them to those who they are destined to encounter in their lifetime. Robert had woven a complex pattern of red strings round oak posts in the garden to illustrate this idea. Visitors were also handed some red string and were invited to interact and add this to the posts. This added their connection to the garden.
This garden made me think about the complex patterns of the relationships we form through our life time and how these are often based on what initially seems like a chance encounter. Talking of connections, I found out later through Twitter that I had also worked with one of the volunteers working on the garden when we were at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago. I thought this conceptual garden got a well deserved gold medal, which was fantastic as it was Robert Barker’s first RHS show garden.
The Working Wetland Garden
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust built this Hampton Court garden to increase awareness of the effect that water running off your roof, patio, decking and driveways has during heavy rainfall. When rain runs off multiple properties in your area, all this surface water has nowhere to go. It can overwhelm drains and cause local flooding. This garden stresses the importance of reducing the amount of impermeable hard surfaces in a garden. We are much better to use alternative permeable materials such as gravel, permeable paving and areas of planting. These provide somewhere for the water to go. This garden channels the water from the roof through gravel beds, flower beds and soakaway hollows. The water flows through an attractive water feature and spills in to a wildlife pond.
Jeni Cairns cleverly designed this garden. She was creative in using recycled industrial materials very effectively as innovative landscaping materials. For example, she created the pagoda roof from the roof of an inverted grain silo. The show garden will also be recycled. The WWT will transport it to their Washington Wetland Centre, where it will become an outdoor classroom.
This is an idea that we can all adapt for our own gardens. We can create more permeable surfaces and channel water into flower beds and ponds or soakaway hollows. We can also build green roofs, which will also act as a holding bay for water during heavy rainfall. As well as reducing flooding, you will be bringing your garden to life by enticing wildlife in to your garden. Furthermore, we can find some fascinating one off pieces by rummaging through salvage yards. With a bit of creativity, you can recycle these to make your garden a truly individual and less wasteful space. And above all else you will be creating beautiful place.
The Bowel Disease UK Garden
Finally, as we were leaving the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show we visited the Bowel Disease UK Garden. This was designed by Fisher Tomlin and Bowyer. This garden had a ‘colon’ shaped path winding through lush architectural planting. The abundant green planting scheme of tree ferns, grasses, hostas, ferns, brunnera, etc gave a real feeling of sanctuary. Again, you could adapt this idea at home to create your own urban retreat in even the smallest of spaces. We weren’t sure about the two ‘stools’ stuck in the middle of the garden though!