Space to Grow – space for inspiration

Sandy Felton looks at the Space to Grow category at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, discovering trends and ideas from Japan, Finland and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as from our own shores.

The Space to Grow gardens at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show certainly had variety and inspiration and I thought this category was one of the most uplifting parts of the whole Show. The high standard is evidenced by the fact that out of nine gardens five were awarded Gold. Below I take a peek at each of these gardens, designed for smaller spaces, to see the trends and get some inspiration.

The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen (Gold and Best in Category, Best Construction)

Designed by Joe Perkins for sponsor Facebook, this garden, inspired by the Basque coastline, had several interesting aspects. The use of sea kale (Crambe maritima) with its large collard-like leaves and white flowers, often found along the coast of England where it can be found above the high tide mark on shingle beaches, certainly gave the garden that maritime feel.

Joe (pictured left on the garden) also used a European beach grass, Ammophila arenaria, a perennial grass with vigorous rhizomes forming a sturdy anchor in shifting sands. Red valerian also made its appearance and of course Agaves. There were also several varieties of Euphorbia.

With an essentially green colour palate with dashes of yellow and white, the garden really worked well as a maritime habitat. Pinus Sylvestris was chosen for character towards the back of the garden.

The water feature, for me, made this garden – it lapped over jagged rock formations – a tidal pool – giving an almost mesmeric quality. A copper canvassed wave-form sculpture formed a canopy over the timber deck –  constructed of reclaimed tropical hardwood. The deck provided a rugged weathered appearance sittingt perfectly in the garden’s character.

The CAMFED Garden (Gold)
This delightful and uplifting garden, (pictured banner above and below) designed by Jilayne Rickards, was not only colourful it carried an important message as well – Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow. Vibrant colours and bold foliage brought rural Zimbabwe to life and it was certainly a hit with everyone on press day.

There were many important messages on this garden, one being how to address climate change with smart agriculture. Young women leaders from the CAMFED alumnae network travelled from Zimbabwe to share their horticultural expertise with Chelsea visitors.

You came away from this garden lighter in heart and with a warm feeling. Justly deserving of their Gold Medal. So much to see and take in on this garden from the tropical planting to the use of the old oil drums as planters, just perfect.

Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden (Gold)
Designed by Jody Lidgard, another colourful garden to gladden the heart. There was so much to see on this garden, from the delightful Walipini-inspired greenhouse to the riot of colourful planting and the green wall of edibles, not to mention the fruit bushes and perennial planting to encourage children to adopt a ‘foraging’ attitude while outside. Superb!

The covered teaching area benefitted from a living fern wall. There was a dipping pond giving way to a water play station allowing children to learn by measurement, sinking and floating in a fun way, while the pergola’ picking platforms helped children to snip, tear and taste.

Viking Cruises: The Art of Viking Garden (Gold)
Designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes, if there was ever a garden that encouraged me to go on holiday, this was it.

The wall made of logs was a particular favourite of mine but the planting, once again from this master of design, was superb. Carex, Hosta, Iris pseudacorus and Symphytum x uplandicum all vied for attention.

Kampo No Niwa, (Gold)

First time at Chelsea designers, Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato, brought us a garden for health and happiness and here was another garden filled with joy. Kampo (Medicine) no Niwa (Garden) is a system of East Asian herbal medicine and all the plants in the garden have been carefully chosen for beneficial health-giving qualities.

Featured plants included Magnolia kobus, (one of the major trees in the design) Nuphar japonica, and Shakuyaku Paeonia lactiflora (the dried roots help to gain relief from headache and stomach ache.) The relaxation space was simple, the perfect place for herbal tea while the little stream forms a symbol of melted snow water. What is lovely about this garden is the number of sponsors (over 300) – the result of a crowdfunding appeal – enabling this talented duo to come together to showcase a traditional Japanese medicine garden.

Roots in Finland Kyro Garden (Silver-Gilt)
Designed by Taina Suonio, the design highlights the biodiversity of Finnish meadows and Woodlands set in clear Nordic lines of design. Junipers, red birches (making their first appearance at Chelsea) Lily of the Valley and all manner of Finnish forest flowers and herbs, made up this delightful garden.

Sponsor, Kyro Distillery Company wanted to see the garden as exporting their raw materials and Finnishness in a homely manner and out of the raw materials planted in the show garden, the company could distil gin.

The Silent Pool Gin Garden (Silver-Gilt) (pictured above)
Designed by David Neale, the design takes its inspiration from plant technologies and greening of inner-city spaces. Here we are treated to planting features in green, blues and whites with splashes of colour. The central modernistic canopy dominates from which you get the sense of the smell of the planting including Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’ and lavender.

The Harmonious Garden of Life (Silver)
Designed by Laurelie de la Salle, this garden explored the different ways we can help regenerate our ecosystem in response to global warming. Water circulation in this garden was produced by human and solar energy while the pond was self-cleaning by plants.

The Manchester Garden (Silver)
Designed by Exterior Architecture, this garden is dominated by a sculpture showcasing Manchester’s journey from one time ‘cottonopolis’ to the home of Graphene. Japanese zelkova, hybrid plane and white mulberry (Morus alba) can be seen.

Elements of the garden will be relocated after the show back to Greater Manchester so planting, sculpture, trees and paving can be integrated into new or existing spaces.

This category has certainly stirred the imagination of designers and I am sure proved popular with everyone at the Show.

All photographs are strictly ©Reckless Gardener, credit Emma J Campbell photography with the exception of the Silent Pool Gin Garden ©Tim Howell. You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimHowellX