Striking gold in the garden

A fantastic show garden
A fantastic show garden

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Abbots Ripton Hall Garden Show, which was held in June. This bi-annual event is held in the spectacular grounds of Lord and Lady de Ramsey with the proceeds supporting a range of local charities.

The attractions included show gardens, each being in a space of 6 metres by 6 metres, and with the theme of “Inspiration”. Now putting together a show garden is hard work. Far harder than an actual real garden, of which I have done many. But we decided to go for it anyway.

So I designed and, with the students of Manea School of Gardening, built an inspirational garden in a few, hot and sticky days. My main aim in the gardens I design or build is fairly simple: to offer a practical and affordable solution to maximise the beneficial nature of a garden – for all the potential users of the space.

Every design, every garden, is unique. However, much of the criteria in designing a garden usually comes from the client – what they want to use the garden for, such as entertaining or for the children, how much time they have to look after it – and of course, budget.

In this case, there was no ‘budget’ as such. And the ‘client requirements’ were for me to decide.

We had a trip to Bannolds, who kindly lent us some wonderful slabs and sets, suitable for a path and a seating area. Our students grow many plants on our courses, but these were kindly supplemented by Delamores, Unwins Seeds and Honeysome aquatic nursery.

The students had been on a rustic chair-making course, so we had a wonderful rustic bench.

Garden design has to follow various conventions or principles, such as balance, harmony, proportion, simplicity, interest... but these alone do not form a plan.

So our garden, ‘The Birds, the Bees and Me’ was designed as a space which I could happily retire into (maybe, one day!). A small space, but room for lots of friends – no matter how many legs they may have – if they have any at all!

The design featured habitats, water and sources of food for multiple species without detracting from the colour, scent and interest appreciated by a keen gardener.

As with life, a garden should have a choice of paths or directions. The alpine path led straight to the main seating area, with an optional, more leisurely, route through either the meadow or the dry garden.

The pergola was constructed from home-grown twisted willow; a coppiced shrub of which was located behind the pond – dappled sunlight penetrating the branches reminiscent of lying beneath an ancient oak in summer.

The hedge beside the meadow includes hazel – early pollen for bees and nuts for birds, as well as stakes for plant supports, fencing and building – including our fantastic rustic bench. This is one of our most valuable of British natives.

We liked the finished result – and so did the judges. We got a Gold.

So, a big thank you to our sponsors and all those who helped.