After studying garden design, Bridget and I graduated from Greenwich University in July 2014. We were both looking to launch our garden design careers and chanced upon the RHS competition to build a metamorphosis show garden for Gardeners’ World Live 2015 at the NEC in Birmingham. Part funded by the RHS, sponsored in kind by Bradstone and mentored by Roger Platts, it was the ideal opportunity to create a real garden, instead of a paper one!
We sought inspiration for our design from the tessellated prints of Escher and the music of Phillip Glass. We wanted to create a modern suburban garden, characterised by the slow progression of seasonal changes culminating in an autumn crescendo of fiery colour. We both believe that a garden can sustain year-long interest with key structural elements, careful consideration of plants and long term planting strategies.
The competition brief restricted us to design with specified Bradstone materials and this turned out to be a blessing as sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming! Embracing the theme 'metamorphosis' we tried to use the materials in innovative ways.
The basic design of the Slow Burn Garden was a paved courtyard (a social space) with L shaped timber bench seating balanced by a shallow rill and pool. We selected the planting to reflect the warm tones of the Natural Porphyry Flamed paving and the Natural Porphyry Easy Lay Setts…and for a clean, crisp finish the spacing in-between the pavers was never more than 5mm.
Five carefully-sited gabions were key elements for our winter structure and were dry stone filled with Natural Sandstone walling. The floating steps in the pond added drama and the warmth of Harvest Gold aggregate mulch reflected light back onto the plants.
We charred the wooden fencing to a crow black iridescent finish, the perfect foil for the structural planting and the focal point sculpture.
It seems a lifetime away now, but building a show garden was an experience I will always treasure. The highs and lows, the periods of shockingly bad, freezing, wet weather, the despair of plants not flowering, the thrill when they burst into bloom on judgement day, the camaraderie with all the other garden designers, the support of the RHS, the joy of working with fantastic landscapers BigFish, and the quality products from Bradstone, and yes, we were rewarded with a Gold medal... not bad at all!
You can see more of our work at www.bridgetrobinson.com and sidgardendesign.co.uk.