Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brooke’s award-winning IQ Quarry Garden has found a new home at the National Memorial Arboretum. He talks about the challenge of moving a garden and the responsibility of designing for the future.
Paul Hervey-Brookes’ re-imagined IQ Quarry Garden may not be facing the scrutiny of RHS judges but he is just as nervous about how it’s received.
The garden, which won gold, Best in Show and Best Construction at RHS Chatsworth, has been re-designed for a site at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, giving it a life span far beyond the norm for a show garden.
“It’s one thing to win the medals we did at Chatsworth but it’s another thing to have a garden that you know has the potential to be there for two or three generations,” he says. “There’s a weight of responsibility knowing generations of designers will be judging my work.”
The move to the NMA is fitting as the garden was commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the Institute of Quarrying and the arboretum is on the site of a former sand and gravel quarry. Yet, despite the move being planned from the outset, the garden’s future use did not influence Paul’s design for the inaugural Chatsworth show.
“What I wanted from the start was that we would re-purpose it rather than just plonk it down brick by brick.
Indeed, the two sites could not be more different. The Chatsworth garden was a large rectangle – one of the biggest RHS show gardens ever built – whereas the new space is a long, narrow and sloping piece of land.
“I was really keen to use a site that nobody else wanted,” explains Paul, who was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the IQ for his work, the first person not involved in the industry to be given the Institute’s top honour.
Taking key elements of the original garden, including paving, seats and the striking rusted wall by Stroud sculptor Ann-Margreth Bohl, his aim was to create something that gives an emotional break between memorial gardens.
“It’s so that it’s not one very emotionally consuming garden space after another. It is much more an area to sit, think and rest or just walk through.”
While the planting follows the same semi-naturalistic style of the Chatsworth project, there is far more of it, and wide grass paths and level hard landscaping mean it is accessible for those with reduced mobility.
Reusing show gardens is preferable to their otherwise rather brutal demise in skips but it does come at a cost.
“It makes it really expensive,” says Paul. “Once you know things are going to be re-purposed you’ve got to be as careful taking them out as you were putting them in, which is time-consuming and costs a great deal more.”
Much of that cost has been looking after the plants since the Chatsworth show in June. The hard landscaping was stored near the NMA but the trees and plants went back to their original nurseries to be repotted and grown on.
“The nurseries don’t really like doing it simply because they know the stress the plants go through. They really need to go in the ground after the show and be allowed 18 months to recover. Trying to nurture them back into looking good at the end of the year is quite a challenge but it was all part of the deal.”
Meanwhile, Paul called in the same construction team, headed by Gareth Wilson, to rebuild the garden: “I thought it was important to have the same contractor who understood the lifting and shifting the first time around to see the project through to the end.”
It’s not the first time the Stroud designer’s work has found a new home. His first Chelsea garden was won in a competition and is now installed at a house in Hemel Hempstead while plants from his two Chelsea gardens for online fashion retailer BrandAlley were sold for charity and the hard landscaping given to community projects.
“I don’t think the physicality of a show garden is important at all but it’s really important that stuff is reused because otherwise it’s an incredibly wasteful kind of journey.”