Cotswold designer Chris Beardshaw’s award-winning Chelsea garden is being given a helping hand by the BBC DIY SOS team this week.
The garden, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley for Great Ormond Street Hospital, has been transported across London and rebuilt as a roof-top garden at the world famous children’s hospital.
DIY SOS Big Build on BBC 1 tomorrow will see Nick Knowles and his team use cranes to take the garden in over buildings before reassembling it for use by patients and their families.
“It’s bringing new life into the heart of the hospital,” explained Chris earlier this year.
The design of the garden was dictated by the location, which is almost entirely shaded by surrounding buildings.
To cope with these conditions, Chris has created a woodland garden with a top storey of trees, including acers and liriodendron. A light-weight growing medium and sophisticated anchoring techniques will ensure they don’t move in the wind or prove too heavy for the roof. The trees will also be coppiced to keep them small.
Rather than his trademark herbaceous, Chris planted this garden with a mix of shade-lovers, such as ferns and epimedium, with seasonal colour coming from Cornus kousa and C. mas and an emphasis on texture.
At the heart of the original garden at Chelsea was a reflective water feature, but this has been replaced by more planting but the Japanese-style pavilion is still a main element, offering shelter and seclusion.
Great Ormond Street treats children with complex conditions, such as rare heart disease and skin disorders. The garden is designed to provide a place for families to relax and escape from the bustle of the hospital.
“It’s a role that at the moment is missing through much of the hospital,” said Chris. A space in which we can sit and relax, contemplate and perhaps find a new perspective.”
The garden was given a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, one of a number of top RHS awards Chris has won, including gold in 2015 for a garden that has been relocated as a community space in Poplar, London.
• DIY SOS Big Build will be shown on BBC1 at 8pm on Thursday November 10.
• Enjoyed this? Do leave me a comment and share this post via Twitter, Facebook or email.
Batsford Arboretum, long known for its tree preservation role, is helping to safeguard a piece of British culinary history – the Bramley apple.
The arboretum near Moreton-in-Marsh has just been given a Bramley tree, propagated from the original, which is dying from an incurable fungal infection.
The Bramley was sown in Southwell Nottinghamshire in 1809 and was growing in the garden of Matthew Bramley when he agreed to sell cuttings from it to nurseryman Henry Merryweather in 1856 with the apples sold under the Bramley name.
Scientists from Nottingham University, who have been studying the tree for some years, have used grafts to create clones to preserve the iconic cooking apple for future generations.
Batsford has been given one of these trees thanks to Nick Dunn, a trustee of the arboretum and owner of tree firm Frank P. Matthews, based in Tenbury Wells. Mr Dunn had a piece of graft wood and when he realised the original tree was under threat, he donated one of the clones he had raised.
Matthew Hall, head gardener at Batsford, which is run by the Batsford Trust charity, was delighted with the latest addition to the collection.
“It’s really important that such an iconic tree – such as the Bramley original – is planted by arboretums and gardens like us, as well as by the general public, to ensure the tree’s future is secured for many years to come,” he said.
He will be choosing a suitable location in the 60-acre arboretum and planting the Bramley apple in the autumn.
Protecting endangered trees
It’s not the first time that Batsford, which was first established in the late 1800s by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, has been involved in tree preservation.
It is part of the International Conifer Conservation Project, run by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, which safeguards trees that under threat in their native countries.
Several endangered species, including monkey puzzles from Chile and the golden Vietnamese cyprus, are grown at the arboretum to safeguard them.
Achance remark by Monty Don on BBC Gardeners’ World has led to a project to support independent nurseries and the launch this month of an UK-wide online plant nursery guide.
There was dismay when Monty said that garden centres would be shut on Easter Day without mentioning that small nurseries were allowed to open under Sunday trading rules.
It sparked a debate about how to best support these small growers and led to the idea of an online guide giving opening times, contact details and an idea of the nursery’s range. The website will also offer the chance for plants men and women to write about their business.
“Often we hear it is hard for nurseries to find affordable advertising space,” say the organisers, “and that people who want to support the British horticultural industry often find it hard to find nurseries.
“Hopefully this site will help to begin to solve both those issues while also giving our industry a boost through good media support.”
The online plant nursery guide, which launched last week, is still in its infancy and new suggestions of firms are being added as they come in. However, it already lists nearly 200 growers and received more than 2,000 hits in the first day.
It’s divided into areas, such as the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland, then regions, and then further sub-divided into counties. The Cotswolds has several nurseries listed, including Tortworth Plants, Pan Global Plants, Farmcote Herbs and Chilli Peppers, Dundry Nurseries, Miserden Nursery and Hoo House.
Specialists include Spinneywell for box, Shady Plants and The Lavender Garden.
Among those on the fringes of the Cotswolds are Harrell’s Hardy Plants in Evesham, penstemon specialists Green Jjam Plants and Gardens, and Bob Brown’s well-known Cotswold Garden Flowers.
There is also a section for those nurseries who deal with customers via mail order only, although several of those who open will also send plants to gardeners who cannot visit.
Organisers are open to ideas of independent plant nurseries to include and should be contacted via the website.
Designer Mark Eveleigh has beaten three former Best in Show winners to take the top award at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.
The Worcestershire-based designer won over the RHS judges with his garden highlighting the work of Macmillan Cancer Support.
“Wow! What an immense accolade,” said Mark, who won gold at Malvern in 2008 and 2010. “I’m delighted to be taking the top title. This award represents an enormous pat on the back from the industry I’m so proud to be a part of.”
The top award in the Festival Gardens contest has gone to Gloucestershire’s Christian Dowle for his celebration of Malvern’s water spouts.
In the Show Gardens contest Graduate Gardeners from Bisley, Gloucestershire, Villaggio Verde from Worcestershire and Howle Hill Nursery, in Herefordshire, all previous winners of the Best in Show title, were awarded gold medals, along with Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, who has made his show garden debut at Malvern.
Emily Sharpe of Garden Stories won silver-gilt, Milleflori and The Woodcutters Garden were both awarded silver and Martyn Wilson’s design for The Primrose Hospice got bronze.
Styling Homes and Gardens and Pro-Gardens both won silver for their Festival Gardens.
Ken Nottage, CEO of Three Counties, said: “Quite simply the talent speaks for itself this year. 2016 sees the Show Gardens take up more space than ever before and the talent has matched the bigger spots, going more grand and elaborate than we could ever have imagined.”
The gardens were assessed by a team of RHS judges, looking at delivery, design, atmosphere, planting and construction. The judges included top designers Paul Hervey-Brookes, Arne Maynard and James Alexander-Sinclair.
It’s well known in my family that I don’t do heights. I was the child who had to be rescued from the playground slide and the only pupil not to ascend the Eiffel Tower on a school trip. So saying I was going to try the new Westonbirt treetop walkway was met with wry amusement. Would I cope, they wondered, or would it be embarrassing for all concerned?
I must confess to some nervousness as I drew up for the official opening by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison. After all, at its highest point the new Stihl treetop walkway is a dizzying 13.5m, or more than 44ft, off the ground with a crow’s nest encircling a black pine, a wire mesh section and wobbly rope bridge. All well outside my comfort zone.
In the end, I needn’t have worried. Such is the design of this latest addition to the National Arboretum that even I was barely aware I had left ground level.
This is achieved by the clever use of the ground’s topography, taking it over a natural dip in the land, and the way the wooden structure gradually slopes upwards, a factor that makes it easily accessible to all and not just the fully mobile.
Fittingly, it’s made of wood – larch and Douglas fir – and held up by 57 wooden legs, the highest 14m.
There’s attention to detail: the handrails are high enough to give a feeling of safety yet low enough for those below 6ft to see, while the railings underneath are designed to give a good view through for children or those in wheelchairs.
“You go on so many other features like this and you can only see if you are tall enough to see over the handrail,” comments arboretum director Andrew Smith.
He and the rest of the team are delighted with the result of what has been a long project. It includes the welcome building, which opened in 2014, and the Wolfson Tree Management Centre, which opened this week with the walkway; the Friends of the Arboretum raised £1.9m to fund this second phase.
“For several years people have been looking at visuals and the visuals don’t live up to the reality. It exceeds expectations.”
What took me by surprise was the sheer beauty of the thing. The lines are sleek and sinewy, the Siberian larch handrails have a tactile quality and the shape has an organic feel. True, the ground beneath still shows the scars of building but given time that will repair and once newly planted trees grow up the structure will sit comfortably in the landscape.
At 300m long – almost the length of the Millennium Bridge – the Westonbirt treetop walkway is believed to be the longest of its type in the UK yet because it snakes into Silk Wood with generous curves you can’t see more than about 50m at any one time. It’s a factor, believes Andrew, which fits well with the picturesque style of Westonbirt, started in the 1850s by Robert Holford.
“One of the features of the arboretum is its snaking paths. This has a ‘what’s round the corner’ type of feeling.”
In contrast, the start of the walkway, designed by Glenn Howells Architects, gives an unparalleled 360 degree view of the arboretum and the historic downs, now restored thanks to the relocation of the entrance and car park.
It also gives an unprecedented view of part of the arboretum’s world class collection. One of the first close-up encounters is with a magnificent Atlas Cedar.
“On that sort of tree the cones sit on the top of the branches so you don’t normally get to see them at ground level, unless they fall off,” says Andrew with a smile.
Westonbirt’s dendrologist Dan Crowley explains that more trees have been planted along the route, including walnuts, maples, alders and a hemlock.
“We’ve planted a black walnut, which will provide really strong autumn colour, and a big leaved maple from the West Coast, which will become a really big tree in the landscape.”
Yet, while these mature there is still plenty to see, not least from the information points with facts and figures about trees; I learned that elm is used for coffins, boat-building and furniture, grey poplar for matchsticks and European box in violin fittings.
It promises to be a huge draw but one that Andrew is confident Westonbirt can cope with; staff will be monitoring numbers for the first few days to ensure the walkway doesn’t get too crowded and it is designed to accommodate more than 270 people.
And what of the scary bits? Well comfortingly, the 10m-long mesh walkway is made of Elefant mesh and is narrow enough so that you can avoid it, although looking down on a tree below is an experience not to be missed. The rope bridge does wobble but has slats rather than being purely rope and was short enough for me to brave. I even ventured up onto the crow’s nest, which moves somewhat alarmingly in the wind giving a real sense of the trees swaying, and I didn’t need rescuing. In fact, driving away, I decided I had actually rather enjoyed the whole experience.
• The Stihl Treetop Walkway is open to the public from Wednesday April 27. Admission is included in the normal entry price. For details, visit Westonbirt Arboretum
• Enjoyed this? Please share it via Facebook, Twitter or email.
The RHS has launched a new range of garden accessories designed by a Cotswold company.
Cheltenham-based MeldHome used original designs from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library as the inspiration for the range, which includes plant pots, a gardener’s notebook, a bird box, china mugs and a gardener’s flask.
“We’re particularly proud to be working with the RHS. It’s a great English society,” said marketing manager Michael Byrd.
“These products look good in the garden and look good in the home. It’s a very versatile range.”
The firm, which employs around 50 people, is also behind a gift range for Mary Berry, who was recently appointed as an RHS ambassador. The baking queen was closely involved in the design of many of the items, which include cake forks, oven gloves, ramekins and the best-selling service bell.
The new range is available from the Royal Horticultural Society website and also from High Street retailers.
Patients could soon be prescribed vegetable growing with the launch of a hospital allotments scheme this week at Vale Community Hospital in Dursley.
The project to turn unused ground at the hospital into raised bed allotments will take another step towards completion with a tree planting and the breaking of ground on Friday.
People living in the area will be able to apply for a plot through the new Social Prescription initiative, which links patients with non-medical sources of support within the community, and can also be referred by their GPs and other health staff. In addition, people who have suffered heart attacks or angina may be referred to the scheme as part of their rehabilitation and the plots will also be open to those on the waiting list for allotments in Dursley.
The development, which has taken three years to plan, has been inspired by Dr Simon Opher, a GP in the area. It is being supported by Stroud-based Down to Earth, which will organise the initial set-up.
Dr Opher would like to see the scheme extended to other hospitals.
“There are numerous medical and psychological benefits to patients who take on an allotment,” he said. “This scheme is unique as it will take place in the grounds of a hospital and support patients trying out gardening for the first time or after a serious illness has stopped them from doing what was always their passion.
“The physical fitness and healthy eating are part of the benefits, the others lie in growing a sense of community and reducing isolation that illness can bring upon us.”
The 40 raised beds will each measure 16ft by 4ft and the site will have ramps to allow wheelchair access, a storage shed and tea-making facilities. Support will be available for those taking on a plot and there will be workshops on growing food. The area is going to be landscaped with flowers, herbs and a small orchard.
The scheme is awaiting decisions on funding applications for stage two but hopes to have the hospital allotments ready for use by September. Meanwhile, organisers are appealing for volunteers to help with the build and the running of workshops.
Amanda Godber of Down to Earth said: “Linking health, nutritious food and physical activity by developing the unused land at the front of the hospital into a suite of allotments for local community groups and social prescribing is such a valuable project. We hope to work with local community groups and involve the community in the whole project.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or being involved should email: email@example.com
Part of the garden at Cheltenham’s Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is being revamped with the help of Chelsea gold medal-winning designer Peter Dowle.
Work begins today on planting a centrepiece flower bed in the courtyard at Leckhampton Court, which will mix trees, shrubs and perennials to provide year-round colour.
Funding for the plants has come from a donation by Cleeve Cloud Golf Club 2015 Charity Tournament and Peter, who owns Howle Hill Nursery near Ruardean, has donated his time and expertise.
“Sue Ryder Homes have always been very close to my heart and it was a fabulous opportunity to share some of the inspiration that plants can bring to such a special place,” he said.
“The Sue Ryder foundation looked after my grandmother with so much dignity and it has been a pleasure to give something back. It has been also very humbling seeing the tremendous work that the team of volunteers bring to the outside space.”
The design has 45 different species, including an olive, Scot’s pine, iris, lavender, ferns and grasses. Providing a link to the hospice’s history, will be pieces of stone from the original 13th century manor house, many of them still showing the marks of the stonemasons who crafted them.
John Millington, Head Gardener at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, said: “We wanted to create something for our patients and visitors to look at and enjoy throughout the year, with colour in every season and the use of grasses creating something to hear too.
“It is fitting that we have been able to incorporate some original stone from the manor house into it which will ensure the new garden has a connection to the hospice building and those who built it.”
Peter has designed a show garden for next month’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival and will be building the L’Occitane Garden, designed by James Basson, at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
Leckhampton Court is the only specialist hospice care inpatient unit in Gloucestershire and has to raise £1.6 million every year to fund its work.
Visitorsto Westonbirt will get a bird’s eye view of the arboretum when a treetop walkway, part of a £1.9m project, opens next month.
The 300m walkway is 13m high and is believed to be the longest of its kind in the UK. It will be unveiled by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison before opening to the public the following day on April 27.
Built from larch and Douglas fir, the structure has been designed around the topography of land near the arboretum’s entrance, allowing easy access without the need for a lift or steps, and is supported by more than 20 pairs of timber legs, which range from 2.5m to 13.5m tall.
It follows a serpentine path through trees into Silk Wood and is designed to educate as much as provide a unique view over the arboretum. Along the route there are interpretation boards giving tree facts and explaining woodland management, such as coppicing, a quiz game and telescopes that can be used to spot things placed in the trees, including fungi and insects.
The route also takes in a crow’s nest, a metal mesh-floored section and there’s the chance to divert down a length of rope bridge.
“People have been enjoying the views of Westonbirt from the ground for generations,” said arboretum director Andrew Smith. “The time has come to offer our visitors a new and exciting way to see the arboretum by getting up close and personal with the canopy, just like our tree team!”
Money for the walkway and a new tree management centre, which will include an interpretation area for visitors, has been raised by The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.
Access to the STIHL Treetop Walkway will be included in the arboretum’s normal entry free.