Earth Garden for RHS Tatton Park

Many of the young designers who showcase their gardens at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show go on to have successful careers in garden design and horticulture. The show is all about what’s new and innovative in the world of garden design and RHS Tatton is the perfect platform for young designers to showcase their talents.

This year (2021) in the RHS Young Designer of the Year category, designer Max Parker-Smith from Sussex, questions our relationship with the natural world and how we perceive it with ‘The Earth Garden’, taking his inspiration from Luis Barragan.

Max has a strong belief that when entering a garden one enters into a space shared with the hundreds of other species that inhabit it and as such we owe them a level of respect and duty of care: “It’s about balancing one’s own desire to dominate the space while appreciating the benefit of sharing it,” he says. “City gardens, in particular, habitually try and control the tight confines of the space which often results in the eradication of the natural habitat for other species,” he adds.

In this garden design, Max is trying to re-balance this relationship. He has long admired the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragan, especially the confidence he demonstrates within his use of colour and pictorial framing. Max points out that Barragan is playful and theatrical and enjoys manipulating atmosphere with the use of the simplest of shapes painted with bright pigments. If you are familiar with Barragan’s work you will see where he is at play in this striking garden.

The Earth Garden is 60 metres square and divided into two areas – the main area overflows with lush planting that spills over the pathways favouring larger spaces for the indigenous wildlife while minimising that for humans. The space includes a modestly sized dining area with bespoke furniture made from up-cycled wooden scaffold boards framed by a lime rendered Hempcrete wall.

Planting includes Yew hedging and an exciting blend of natural and informal textured and shapely plants grouped into large clear blocks. Planting has been chosen to attract a plethora of wildlife whose habitat is constantly shrinking in the city. A central archway links this area with a smaller Garden Room which has a more paired back feel.

The entire garden creates a number of interesting spaces while using modest materials and letting the planting speak for itself. Max feels it is important that we understand the impact our gardens can have both negatively and positively on other species. Planting will include Astilbe, Brunnera, Digitalis ferruginea, Geum, Hosta and Miscanthus.

Plants for the garden are being supplied by Hortus Loci who will also be supplying the main specimen tree (Acer Griseum). Support has also been received from Deedale, The Stone Warehouse, Rolawn and London Stone.

Image credit: © and credit Max Parker-Smith