Chelsea Artisan Garden to showcase ancient boat building

In July 2013 a 1,000 year old boat was discovered by Environment Agency workers beside the River Chet in Norfolk. The boat was 6 metres long and skillfully built of oak with wooden pegs and iron nails used in its construction.

The Broads Authority subsequently commissioned the International Boatbuilding Training College, (IBTC) Lowestoft to create a replica of the ‘Chet boat’ and it is the traditional skills taught today at the College that provides the inspiration for the IBTC Lowestoft, Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by the IBTC.

The Artisan garden, designed by former student and Gold Medal winning designer Gary Breeze, will feature an 800 year-old crafted oak boat found on the Norfolk broads in the middle ages. The garden depicts the edge of a Norfolk river where a boatbuilder has been at work. His yard is a humble garden and the ‘Broadland’ landscape around provides both the materials for his trade and sustenance for his family and a sail has been rigged to provide a makeshift shelter from sun and rain.

The garden will also draw attention to the need to preserve the fragile environment of the area as well as the boat-building skills that help to shape it. The oak boat stands on a small jetty surrounded by plants and trees native to the dykes that criss-cross the grazing marshes of the region. The design incorporates plants which are of their time and native to the Broadland area.

The planting scheme aims to emulate the colours and textures of the Broads and draw attention to the beauty of the marshland environment. The garden includes a few edible plants including peas, garlic, kale and chives and 50% of the garden will comprise of aquatic and semi aquatic planting to attract wildlife. Among a bank of Common Reed we find Meadowseet and Purple and Yellow Loosestrife while an area of shorter fenland vegetation sees Southern and Early Marsh Orchid and the stately Royal Fern.

The scenic waterways of the Norfolk Broads are a favourite with visitors who come to enjoy the rare flora and fauna and the rich history of the area. Its gentle landscape of estuary, fen,carr woodland and grazing marshes cover 303 square kilometres, but despite comprising only 0.1% of the UK the park area boasts more than a quarter of its rarest wildlife.

Really looking forward to seeing this garden in what promises to be a strong Artisan category in 2017.

Further information on the International Boatbuilding Training College, Lowestoft, can be found on their website at:

Garden image ©Gary Breeze