The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust

The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 21st – 25th May 2024

Here at Artisans of Devizes, we were delighted to play a supporting role at The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. The garden is designed by Ann-Marie Powell and we helped her source reclaimed York stone to sit alongside stone reclaimed from National Trust properties. This showcases our sourcing service, which we offer when clients are unable to find stone from our stock ranges.

The show garden, which is located on Main Avenue, celebrates the life and achievements of social reformer Octavia Hill, the pioneering co-founder of the National Trust, who worked to protect green spaces, believing they were vital in everyone’s life. ‘Research continues to show the importance of green spaces for both physical and mental health,’ explains Ann-Marie. ‘While celebrating Octavia’s legacy, our garden also aims to inspire innovative gardens that connect people with the beauty and complexity of the natural world.’

With one-in-three people in Britain still without access to nearby green spaces, Ann-Marie’s plant-filled urban community wildlife garden embodies the idea that if Octavia Hill were alive today, she would be working to give urban communities access to nature. The garden, envisioned as being located on a brownfield site, is designed to stimulate physical, mental, and social well-being. It showcases sustainability and climate-change resilience, with peat-free plants, reclaimed materials, environmentally sensitive hard landscaping and low-carbon build techniques. ‘We want to show that urban brownfield sites can be reclaimed to create beautiful, biodiverse spaces with huge wellbeing benefits,’ says Ann-Marie. The garden increases urban biodiversity and encourages visitors to feel that they are part of nature by making intimate connections with colourful pollinator-friendly plants and wildlife.

The garden is built as a series of open-air living rooms with hand-carved oak seating by Kate Hanrahan, made from storm-fallen timber from the National Trust’s woodlands. The objective is that people can sit and be immersed in nature and be a part of it. ‘If they feel part of nature then they’ll cherish it, value it and look after it in future,’ explains Ann-Marie. ‘We’re using plants with bold colour that are future friendly and climate resilient because our climate is changing so rapidly. We’re having to think about the way we plant up our parks and community gardens because we want to ensure we’ve got resilient plants that will continue to support all of our natural wildlife. It’s a case of future proofing our outdoor space so we’re using plants that can accommodate our future challenges.’ One of these is Celtis sinensis, showcased because trees are so important in city gardens. ‘We should all be planting more trees in cities because they breathe out oxygen, provide shade and keep moisture, but they also flower, which attracts pollinators, so they provide a structured habitat,’ explains Ann-Marie. She describes another plant, Baptisia ‘Burgundy Blast’, as a pollinating magnet. ‘Not only does it cope with hot dry summers and cold wet winters, but it provides beautiful spires of colour.’ 

Aquatic plants also feature, with a large wildlife pond and a ‘walkable’ stream that goes through the centre of the garden. ‘These plants mitigate pollution by absorbing pollution particles and releasing O2 etc into the urban environment that we are imagining,’ explains Ann-Marie. 

The garden is designed to enable visitors to experience different views. There are sloping level changes, with wheelchair accessible paths. The main focal point is a large steel-lattice canopy inspired by the natural patterns found in nature by architect Giles Holland and crafted from recyclable steel by Richard Weaver that offers shade and acts as a habitat for wildlife. After the show, the garden will be moved to the Blue Diamond owned Bridgemere Show Gardens where the public can enjoy it all year round.

May 7, 2024