RHS Malvern Spring Festival
Our RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Garden
Nature’s recovery is at the heart of the Wilder Spaces Show Garden at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2023.
‘Wilder Spaces’ is sponsored by The Wildlife Trusts, led by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and its ecological consultancy Future Nature WTC.
This year, lead designer, Jamie Langlands at Oxford Garden Design, has designed a stunning garden taking wildlife-friendly gardening to a new level by combining beauty with biodiversity. Our team demonstrate how wildlife habitats can be easily be designed into the structure of any garden, using building waste, reclaimed material and untreated timbers.
The Wildlife Trusts believe gardening has a vital role to play in nature’s recovery, with long-term benefits for climate and people’s wellbeing too. The aim of our garden is to inspire visitors to think differently about the appearance of a garden designed for people and wildlife, and to show how we can all nurture nature, no matter what size or style of garden.
The Story Behind our RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Garden
It began with a meeting of minds at fitness class which our director, Sheena Marsh, and BBOWT’s chief executive regularly attend. In an essential after class drink (at the local pub!) Estelle and Sheena soon realised they shared many common values and made an instant decision to visit the On Form Sculpture Exhibition at Astall Manor in Oxfordshire that same afternoon. It became immediately apparent that instead of focusing on the sculptures ,which were indeed beautiful, they were both busily photographing the wildlife friendly aspects of the garden. A common bond was established.
Sheena then introduced Jamie to Estelle and once again it became crystal clear that we all had the same values. From this came the kernel of an idea to do garden at the Malvern Spring Festival with nature being the driver in the design, we wanted habitats of high ecological value to form the foundation of the garden’s structure.
More clarity was given by Russell Hartwell, Managing Director at Future Nature WTC, who says
“The garden is full of materials, plants and features that enhance biodiversity, without conforming to the myth that a wildlife garden must be an untamed rewilded jungle. Standing deadwood, building waste and reclaimed aggregates all enhance the aesthetic appeal and provide niches for wildlife to nest, shelter and find food. Our bee-bench, composting channel, solitary bee columns, hoverfly lagoon and recycled habitat wall are all innovative examples.”
Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s Chief Executive, says
“Private gardens make up a bigger area than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined – they can provide a mosaic of mini-habitats that support a diverse range of species, so they are key to helping create more nature everywhere.”
Jamie Langlands, Lead Designer from Oxford Garden Design, says
“I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed whilst having a little wonder within them. Having the opportunity to work with the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust gives us the opportunity to showcase the amazing work they are doing improving the biodiversity and ecology within the local area. It also offers us the opportunity to showcase how to improve wildlife habitats within visitors’ own gardens.”
With help from Russell, the plants have been carefully chosen to provide pollen and nectar for insects, alongside often unsung native plants that feed the larvae of butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. Key species will include hawthorn, ivy, nettles, blackthorn and cow parsley to attract mayflies and other vital critters. Thus the garden provides a calm space in which to enjoy the diverse species living in the garden’s varied habitats.
The garden features a watercourse that meanders through the plot towards a central pond and a section of bog planting. It includes a range of nature and climate positive features, including:
- A variety of wildlife habitats – including grassland, wetland & deadwood
- Pollinator and larval friendly planting
- A stream, waterfall and pond
- A compost channel and hoverfly stumpery
- Recycled materials – timber, steel, building aggregate, sponsored by Grundon Waste Management Ltd.
- A biodiverse roof and solitary bee columns
- Climate resilient planting and landscaping
The Bench has been cleverly constructed by Gareth Lewis, who has a long-standing passion for working with wood and craftsmanship. Gareth used an ash tree, felled on one of the BBOWT’s sites to create both a practical and aesthetically pleasing seat, in line with the goals of the garden. The logistics of transporting the log were, to say the least challenging, and we have the many people involved in the complex operation to thank for making that happen, not least, Gareth himself.
The pavilion, topped with a living roof has been created in conjunction with Charlie LuxtonDesign from reclaimed steel joists and grating.
Once the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is over, the garden will be distributed across various Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust sites and projects. The seating will go to BBOWT’s College Lake Visitor Centre, near Tring or Sutton Courtenay Education Centre’s wildlife garden near Didcot.
Weeks 2 and 3
The building takes shape and planting 1,000 plants begins in earnest.
At last year’s RHS Spring Festival we won a Silver Gilt medal with ‘A Peaceful Escape’. This year we’ve used the same winning construction team, led by George White, or contracts manager, and are delighted that the “Wilder Spaces” Garden won a gold award, best in show and best construction.
We are delighted that the garden not only won a prestigious RHS gold award, but also Best in Show, Best Construction and the People’s Choice award.
We hope that this garden will inspire home owners to create wilder spaces in their own gardens.