Show Garden Update – April

Probably about time I did an update about my forthcoming show garden!

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I think everything is starting to take shape. I’m trying to get as much done as soon as I can, just in case any unexpected problems arise – quite possible considering I am feeling my way through the whole process. Whenever I sit down to spend some time planning one particular aspect, I usually realise I have at least four other things to plan before I can finish what I started.

I’ve been busy making final decisions about the number of plants I’m going to need. Probably over 200. The tree for the border has almost been finalised. Finding a mature pollarded willow has been difficult, so instead I have opted for three Salix that have been woven into bold living columns. Their shape is reminiscent of the chimneys of bottle oven kilns, which would have dominated the industrial skyline. Standing like living monuments to the pottery industry and the world-famous willow pattern.

I have started designing my mosaic stepping-stones and have a good collection of blue and white ceramics to use. Found in charity shops and boxes of plates that never made it into our cupboards, they are so lovely I feel guilty about breaking them. Imagine if one of them was a priceless heirloom and I take a hammer to it!

Juggling working full-time and trying to organise my border is a little tricky. I could easily spend all my time deliberating over the planting plan or the design of my leaflet, so perhaps it’s a good thing that lack of time will make me more focused. Fingers crossed the completed garden will look like the image I have in my head.

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Starting Small – My First Show Garden

Experiencing the process of a Chelsea Flower Show garden coming to life over the last few months has made me eager to pick up a pen and start dreaming of designing my own show garden. Although, with the highs we have also seen the lows and there have definitely been times when we have not envied the gruelling obstacles that Adam Frost has had to overcome with his design.

About a month ago I read about the Beautiful Borders category at BBC Gardener’s World Live in Birmingham. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to design a small garden, only 3x3m, but still experience the planning, preparation and atmosphere of being at a show. With nothing to lose and a good opportunity to get the ink flowing from my pens again, I set about designing a garden inspired by the theme of, ‘Industrial Heritage of the West Midlands’.

Last week, completely out of the blue, I had a letter from the RHS confirming that they would like me to bring my design to life at the show! I’m completely over the moon. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the theme and settled upon the pottery industry of the West Midlands as my inspiration. It is a really fascinating subject. I never realised that so many important developments involving the mass-production of ceramics came from that area, plus there are some fantastic contrasts between the beautiful pottery that was created and the people who worked in the factories.

I imagine if I had not been a part of the Garden Academy this year, I might not have entered. However, meeting enthusiastic suppliers, working with Adam Frost and all the other amazing Academy students has given me a real drive. Now it is dawning upon me that I have a lot of planning to do!

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‘The Potteries’, Beautiful Borders Design by Nicola Oakey

 

About the design:

Inspired by the pottery industry of the West Midlands, particularly Spode and Wedgewood, the border has a white and blue palette, as they are the most common colours associated with these potteries. The planting will be informal, with lots of tall swaying flower heads, coupled with delicate sprawling ground cover. A large pollarded Salix stands in the border as living monument to the world-famous willow pattern. Tall spires of Acanthus tower above the rest of the planting, echoing the chimney-like bottle ovens that would have dominated the skyline. Mosaic stepping-stones cross the border. Made from broken blue and white pottery, the pattern of the stepping-stones reminds us of the factories where the ceramics were produced, with a haunting reminder of the people who tirelessly worked there.