“Less than six months after my leaving the KLC classroom as a qualified garden designer, I decided to embark on my first ever show garden.
The Green Living Spaces category at RHS Malvern Spring Festival seemed the ideal platform for my show garden debut. Seeking to get onto the property ladder myself, the category sat very close to home. An opportunity to inspire fellow millennial home hunters/owners seemed to have my name written all over it.
The show garden category allowed for an entirely blank canvas, with the only restrictions being a 3m x 6m garden space and a £2,000 bursary.
I thought about what I personally perceived to be my ideal ‘living space’. The sentiment of good food, good wine and time spent at home with family and friends aligns perfectly with Mediterranean lifestyle. From here I embarked on creating my own Balearic dream.
Being a small, living space I knew that I wanted to start with striking, evergreen statement plants to create the structure behind the seasonal “fluff”. A visit to Architectural Plants led me to fall in love with a tree that later became the star of the show. A 4 meter tall striped Trachycarpus fortunei, dressed in its impressive yellow flowers and an outstanding stripey trunk. A beautifully gnarled Yucca, whose arms sprawled perfectly throughout the bed to add interesting shape and texture.
In fact the colours in the trunk of the Trachycarpus – deep maroon, burnt orange and vibrant yellow – became the colour palette for my perennial planting. Iris germanica ‘Dutch Chocolate’, ‘Carnival Time’ and ‘Quechee’ were used to complement the colours of the tree, and bringing them into the rest of the garden. Decorative heads of Euphorbia ‘Black Pearl’ nodded beneath strong spires of Echium ‘Purple Fountain’. Texture from Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Stipa tenuissima allowed for the architectural planting to take centre stage.
As one might imagine, the build was no walk in the park. The Malvern Hills has a notoriously capricious micro-climate, the build saw us in 50 mph winds, frost, and torrential rain – you’d expect to pack your wellies, thermals and Factor 50 for a day on site. Planting the 4 meter tall palm took 8 pairs of hands and a forklift, which might’ve been simpler if it weren’t to be planted in a small bed, butting right up against a shipping container. It took a team of 3 to get all of the beds and pots ready to show-garden standard.
Pots and Pithoi kindly sponsored my garden, their beautiful Cretan pots and kitchen wares were the finishing touch, helping to create a rustic Mediterranean feeling throughout the space. Obviously plants were the focus, but the authentic home touches bought my vision for the garden to life.
Working alongside five other young, female designers was truly inspiring. With such different and effective uses of space, I believe that our five gardens allowed for a really exciting category.
I thank Rupert Keys and his team at Keyscapes Construction, Jamie Butterworth and my Green Living Space peers, and importantly my family and friends. All were so kind and willing to help.
Now with show garden season over and a Silver-Gilt medal under my belt, I am ready to get back to normality and start making plans for my own garden at home!”
Key Plants List:
Written by: Gaby Pill
Images: London Stone