Designer thinks big with container garden

Exploring and challenging the conventional ideas of container gardening will be the aim of award-winning designer Sara Edwards, who will feature her debut garden at the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the new container garden category.

Sara is thinking BIG with her tiny ‘’IBC Pocket Forest Garden‘, inspired by her love of the verdantly planted, towering balconies of Milan’s ‘Bosco Verticale’ designed by Boeri Studio. Sara is also influenced by the planting methodology of Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki – instrumental in creating the concept of ‘Tiny Forests’ in small urban spaces.

Each container garden is just 4 x 3 meters and Sara wants to use her design to demonstrate how even in the smallest of spaces it is possible to create an urban pocket-sized forest, through creatively upcycling and re-purposing readily available Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC).

IBC, like pallets and shipping containers, are all part of global trading economy, but many more arrive in the country than ever leave, creating a surplus to demand, which are perfect for adapting in the trend of upcycling and reuse.

Sara who studied Art & Design and has a First-class BA (Hons) in 3D Furniture Design and Making, cleverly repurposed the large plastic containers to create deep but compact, planting beds, which provide enough volume to hold a richly tiered planting scheme of trees, shrubs and ground cover.

The pocket forest will include large trees including Betula pendula, Sorbus aucuparia and Crataegus Malus Everest. There will be a middle storey of shrubs including Viburnum opulus with underplanting and groundcover from a host of textured perennials including ferns Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’. Grasses also feature including Hakonechloa Macra and Carex testacea Prairie Fire.

Sara has also adapted one of the containers to make a contemporary take on a wildlife pond, featuring a striking collection of aquatic plants.

The result is a striking woodland garden that is both sustainable and attainable for those with even the smallest of outdoor spaces. The garden will also provide a haven for wildlife and a sanctuary in which to sit and be immersed in nature.

Commenting Sara (left) said: “It is wonderful to be able to create my first garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Due to the changes this year, I’ve only had a couple of months to create the Garden, so I wanted to think big and push boundaries and to design a garden which challenged the usual small space container planting.

I wanted to play with scale and therefore the planters, trees and shrubs are all very large and when you sit in the garden, it is completely immersive and feels as though you are sitting in a tiny glade, with narrow paths that overhang with branches. It is experimental and playful.  I really hope the idea is something people can try for themselves.

Following RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the IBC Pocket Forest Garden, will once again be repurposed as Sara will be re-using some of the trees and plants to create a green and welcoming community space on the Foley Trading Estate in Herefordshire.

Sara runs the successful No.30 Design Studio in Herefordshire, launched following her 2019 success at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival when she won an RHS Gold Medal and Best in Category for her Green Living Space Garden – Defiance.

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Photo credits: Garden diagram: ©Sara Edwards No.30 Design Studio; photo of Sara,