When we started, it was very wet and wintery, which meant we had to be quite adaptable and flexible, responding to challenges as they came up. I had all these planting plans and ideas and then, as is the nature with these projects, we had to think on our feet a bit. But we all worked really hard and it’s been fun seeing it take shape.
It’s gone from a bit of a quagmire to this beautifully contoured space with sweeps of grasses and shaped hedges and vertical planes with trees. It’s wonderful seeing how far it’s come.
On a project like this, it really helps to think 2D as well as 3D. That way you focus on the shapes you’re creating, ensuring it all works on paper, before getting on site and working with the topography to form the areas of planting, and bringing the 2D design to life.
All the plants are still quite small at the moment, but soon they’ll start growing, flowering and changing through the seasons to create this beautiful, colourful, sensory experience year-round.
We’ve picked lots of blues and yellows to encourage the bees, and sown perennial and annual wildflowers to create waves of colour this year and next. We’re really thinking about the seasons through the year and how it will cycle for maximum impact.
As well as the visual look of the space, it was important to me to incorporate other senses. Wherever there’s an intersection of paths, or you cross from one threshold into another, we’ve planted gorgeous scents to elevate the experience.
We have the daphne and mahonias in the winter, with their wonderful vibrant woodland scent, and spring into the summer with lavender and rosemary around the Glasshouse and down the steps. Outside each of the shepherd huts, we have scented flowers that will give a waft whenever guests open their doors, and we’ve also planted Sarcococca and scented rhododendrons.
Then there are the sounds; the rustle of grasses, the swish against your body as you walk through the wildflower meadow. It’s all part of the design.
I’m always keen to minimise waste. We’ve transplanted plants we’ve dug up to use elsewhere on the site, so we aren’t losing them. For example, we found these lovely yew domes which we’ve replanted across the site and some of them have really flourished in their new spots. I love doing that in a garden, giving plants a new lease of life rather than throwing them away.
Guests have been really interested in what we’re doing. The other day I was plug-planting some wildflowers into parts of the lawn – which we’re developing as an ornamental wildflower area – and guests were coming up and asking questions. Many of them are keen to replicate planting combinations/approaches in their own gardens.
It’s been lovely chatting to people, as they’re so eager to find out more about biodiversity and attracting wildlife into their own gardens. And I’ve loved seeing and hearing their reactions as they’ve watched the site transform. It’s been a really rewarding project.