We were delighted to be part of an RHS Chelsea Platinum Jubilee tribute to The Queen at Chelsea Flower Show in May this year. The tribute, in the form of a photography exhibition depicting images of The Queen visiting the show throughout her life, was designed by award winning garden designer and landscape architect Dave Green. It included an accessible deck walkway made with Millboard’s Weathered Oak Embered boards which flowed around the images, set amongst a woodland inspired planting scheme.
The wild and the natural were everywhere at Chelsea this year, with many show gardens taking a more ecological, relaxed approach to designing an outside space.
It’s not the first time Millboard has been used at Chelsea and we were delighted to be part of Dave Green’s exhibition. We thought the dark tones and texture of our Weathered Oak Embered boards complemented his woodland theme perfectly. The wild and the natural were everywhere at Chelsea this year, with many show gardens taking a more ecological, relaxed approach to designing an outside space.
Although a garden can become wilder and more naturalistic, it is still a garden requiring human intervention, and not a wilderness
The gold-medal winning ‘Rewilding Britain’ garden, designed by Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt, was a gorgeous example of a more naturalistic space. The garden sparked debate about ‘rewilding’, with Monty Don and others pointing out that, although a garden can become wilder and more naturalistic, it is still a garden requiring human intervention, and not a wilderness. We’re inclined to agree with Monty; at the end of the day gardens serve a purpose and are a combination of the wild and the tamed. But we still love the relaxed, naturalistic trend so here are some ideas to help achieve this.
Allowing part or all of a lawn to grow longer will attract wildflowers and wildlife as well as reducing the hours of maintenance required to keep it looking well-tended
Lose the lawn
Allowing part or all of a lawn to grow longer will attract wildflowers and wildlife as well as reducing the hours of maintenance required to keep it looking well-tended. Simply mowing a path through longer grass can create a relaxed orchard effect. Mow once at the end of the summer when the wildflower seeds have dropped and remove the cuttings as wild flowers prefer to germinate and grow in poorer unfertilised soil.
Planting in drifts and repeating, or in pockets of shade or at edges and boundaries, can help achieve a naturalistic planting scheme
Go wild with planting
Naturalistic planting schemes mimic the self-seeding process where plants gradually spread out or colonise nooks and crannies. Planting in drifts and repeating, or in pockets of shade or at edges and boundaries, can help achieve this look. Choose native plants and plant in their natural conditions - violas will thrive in a shady corner and primroses will nestle at the base of a hedge. Red valerian will poke out of a wall and dog rose will happily clamber over a fence. Plants that are often considered weeds have a wild and natural beauty of their own and need little tending, for example, wild carrot, lesser celandine and lungwort. Even traditional garden borders can be ‘made wilder’ with foxglove, hyssop and loosestrife mingling with ferns and euphorbia.
Umbellifer plants are characterised by the formation of their flowers in umbels (meaning umbrella-like). Often prodigious self-seeders, they will come back year after year – the most well recognised being the lacy cow parsley flowers found in British hedgerows every May. They look relaxed yet decorative and can provide structural interest long after the flowers have died. The clouds of flowers are also a great supporting act for a vase of flowers or on their own for a more rustic display. Combining umbellifers such as fennel, astrantia and ammi majus with foxgloves, knapweed and poppies will provide a natural colourful froth in a garden.
Cyclamen, muscari and anemones will thrive in dappled shade, woodland areas or in the shade of a hedge.
Naturalise with bulbs
Buying naturalising bulbs which will spread gradually is a wonderful way of letting nature do its thing in your garden with very little human input. The trick is to encourage the planting to evolve into something that looks natural and organic by working them into the edges of lawns and adding them to wildflower zones. Crocus, snowdrops and daffodils are ideal for naturalising on the edge of a lawn whilst cyclamen, muscari and anemones will thrive in dappled shade, woodland areas or in the shade of a hedge.
A long garden could have a beautiful decked dining area softened with planting by the house.
Define your boundaries
Monty Don’s point about human intervention is an important one - very few of us would feel happy completely ‘rewilding’ our gardens, nor would we want to spend time in them! Having a plan for how and where to intervene in a space can help with the process of letting go in certain areas, for instance, deciding which ‘weeds’ to tackle and which to embrace – learning to love dandelions, buttercups and celandines can save a lot of weeding time!
Ultimately, letting go in some areas can mean more time to spend on keeping living zones shipshape – a long garden could have a beautiful decked dining area softened with planting by the house, but have a wilder area to explore at the other end. The simplest rule in making a garden more natural is to look around and copy what you like – hedgerows, churchyards and the edges of parks are full of inspiration. If ever you needed permission to do less in the garden, this is it!