It is wonderful to be able to share this news with you and have something to look forward to this year! I am co-designing an Feature Garden for RHS Hampton Court, with Charles Dowding. The show will be held on 6 – 11 July 2021.We were first approached by the RHS in early 2020: would we like to design and make a no dig feature garden at the show? What an exciting suggestion! Charles and I had a preliminary meeting with the RHS team to discuss what this would involve – design, construction, the show itself.
We were all agreed that the garden would demonstrate how beautiful and productive no dig gardening is, and educate and inspire people to try it out in their own gardens and allotments.
I have (almost!) 13 years’ experience of no dig gardening in my home garden, allotment, running kitchen gardens on private estates and for restaurants, and also in two of Charles’ market gardens (plus a few more decades of growing my own using other methods). Charles has almost 40 years experience of growing no dig in his four market gardens. This show garden combines both our work experience and knowledge.
Charles and I discussed what key elements would feature in the design including:
– the importance of healthy soil life and how to achieve this
– sustainable growing
– how to grow food year round in domestic gardens and allotments
– organic methods
– growing with nature
– time saving methods
– ways of starting no dig gardens
– multisowing and propagation
– showing how to grow many different kinds of plants
– the tools we use
– harvesting and conserving water
and started to plan.
The original designs were sketched out, discussed and edited. (I have these designs, but at the time of writing they are still packed in boxes, I have just moved house!) Meanwhile, we needed to collaborate with a project manager for the construction, so asked Christopher Smith of Pennard Plants which is a few miles away from Homeacres. Chris has a lot of experience creating award winning show gardens, so we were delighted when he agreed! Having someone with extensive practical experience of designing and creating show gardens made a huge difference.
Chris discussed the design with us, making useful suggestions and explained how certain elements such as the access and paths need to be created, to enable accessibility for all. The design was adjusted to include wide paths and clear entrances/exits. Charles sketched the final design for the garden, drawn to scale.
The final design was agreed with the RHS and sent to a colleague of Chris’ to be illustrated.
I think it looks beautiful, productive and delicious!
Meanwhile, Charles and I worked out the plant list – all of the different varieties that we want to have growing in the garden – and also had to discuss the practicalities of construction and the show itself.
As garden builder and project manager, Chris is responsible for a lot, including working out how much compost will be needed to make the beds, how to construct the pathways, raising the plants, organising the building team and supplying many of the props that will turn this space into an allotment.
Of course we then had lockdown, and the show in 2020 was cancelled. It was rescheduled for September 2020, but that was cancelled also. We are being hopeful that this one will go ahead, but of course one can not be sure. However it is a very large venue, it is outside and there are lots of arrangements for everyone’s safety, so let’s hope it does happen.
I will attend Hampton Court for the build up, the show itself and the breaking down of the gardens afterwards, a commitment of several weeks. My work includes planting, photographing the whole construction etc, arranging the props and ensuring the finished garden resembles our design and also reflects both of our work. With the support of friends (many of whom are experienced gardeners, writers, bloggers, You Tubers etc) I will be at the garden every day during the show, and also giving gardening and cookery talks and demonstrations on various stages every day. I am the Press Contact for the garden (contact me here for more info) and arranging many of the larger props for the garden, including liaising with brands for the polytunnel, cloche hoops, tools, compost etc. More about that in another blog.
Due to the nature of Charles’ work, running an abundant market garden, and the time of year – July is a really busy time in the garden – it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to spend much time during the build up at the show garden, but thanks to the wonders of technology will be able to contribute during this time from Somerset. Charles will be there for Press Day, and several other days giving talks and demonstrations, which will be confirmed nearer the time (but likely to include Wednesday and Saturday).
Both Charles and myself will be giving talks and demonstrations at the show garden as well as on stages.
Another exciting element of the show garden will be guest speakers – really emphasising the community element of allotments and gardening. More later on!
To find out more about the event and to book tickets, visit here.
I have created several pop up show gardens before, but not quite on this scale! Here are some photos from no dig gardens I made for Sunrise Festival in Bruton in the past, including some with Charles helping with the planting.