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TheVillage Gardening

The journey garden

Posted on February 28 2015 at 11:46:23 0 comments

Matt's sculpture

Hannah Genders describes the creation of a special garden for the Malvern Show.

It’s always very exciting and completely nerve-wracking to do a show garden. Exciting because there are fewer restrictions than redesigning an existing garden and the freedom of this allows you to really “think outside the box”.

At the same time it’s very nerve-wracking because everything has to be completed to a strict timeframe, it needs to be as near perfect as you can get it for the show opening and then of course it is judged.

It is in this position that I find myself again this year, as I have been commissioned to do a garden for the RHS Malvern Spring Show in May.

It’s a special project and close to my heart because it is for St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford – the hospice is having an eco rebuild and I was privileged enough to do the landscape design work for the gardens in the early stages of the project.

I was so impressed with the complete care I witnessed at the hospice that I’m thrilled to be representing them. The setting of the hospice on the edge of Hereford is stunning and there is enough land around the building to include a number of therapeutic features for the patients, staff and families.

Each area has its own garden, there are wildflower meadows and kitchen gardens for healthy eating and a large community orchard which is being replanted with local Herefordshire varieties of fruit.

The hospice decided they would like to tell the story of their redevelopment and new build through a garden at the Malvern show, with the theme of sustainability, community and therapy. I loved the brief and was happy to take up the challenge of designing a garden to try to do this.

In any show garden the theme needs to be strong and clear: I wanted a central piece that spoke of the sanctuary the hospice offers to so many people and I wanted it to be large, like a shelter that people can get under.

With this in mind I approached Matt Sanderson to work with me on a large sculpture – I had met Matt through a BT project and was so impressed with his work and how he makes everything he can from recycled materials.

Working creatively together we came up with “The Angel Tree”. Using the St Michael’s theme, Matt will build an eight-foot tree that gives shelter for a central seating area.

The tree is made from all the metal coming out of the refurbishment of the old hospice, so Matt has already been to St Michael’s to collect old beds, which are now at this workshop, making the project very sustainable.

A curved path, again made from recycled materials, takes you on a journey through the garden, up to the angel tree – which has a backdrop of apple trees to depict the community orchards – and on through a small allotment.

The path finishes at a water feature at the front of the garden and this represents the pools and water features at the hospice; again this will be built from recycled materials.

The planting is soft and flowing with lavender following the curved path, which I’m hoping I can get in full flower in early May! The front area of the garden is going to be a “no-grass” lawn. This idea has been researched at Reading University and is a way of having more biodiversity in a garden than the usual turf.

The no-grass lawn is made up of low-growing perennials all tightly woven together; they can be walked on and only need cutting a couple of times a year. The added benefit is the abundance of wildlife in the form of bees, beneficial insects and butterflies that the flowers will attract.

As I want this to be in flower for the show, I am searching out plants like Ajuga, Violias, Bellis daisies and Achillea – the low-growing one. All the plants you wouldn’t usually want to see in a lawn and would probably consider as weeds. . . these are what I will be planting.

This again tells an important story of the landscape at the hospice with its enthusiasm for creating flower gardens to encourage wildlife around the new building.

To complete the story, the area under the apple trees will be planted up as a small wildflower meadow; I’ve managed to source this already and the nursery have promised me they won’t cut it so it should be in full flower by then.

This garden would not be sustainable if it was just a show garden and didn’t get rebuilt afterwards, so I’m very happy to say that it will be permanently situated at the hospice for the whole community to enjoy.

The RHS Malvern Spring Show runs from May 7–10. For tickets and information see http://www.threecounties.co.uk/rhsmalvern

More on St Michaels Hospice: http://www.st-michaels-hospice.org.uk
Do have a look at Matt’s work: http://www.sanderson-sculpture.com


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