A new Cool Garden, designed by Chelsea gold medallist Jo Thompson, will open at RHS Garden Rosemoor this month. The new garden, centred on the use of water, will feature plants with blue, white and pastel-coloured flowers complemented by grey foliage. It will provide a calming contrast to the fiery colours of the nearby Hot Garden.
The main theme of the garden is how gardeners can deal with heavy rainfall, a typical occurrence in Devon but also an increasing challenge elsewhere in the UK because of climate change. It has been three years in the planning and represents a £¼ m injection of new garden content. It will prove to be a huge draw for tourism with both previous visitors to the garden and new audiences wanting to see it.
It is also the first garden at Rosemoor to be designed around an ornamental water feature. A curved terrace allows visitors to look down across the plantings, and the terrace wall has five water blades which feed rills running through the garden to a teardrop-shaped pond.
The new design builds upon the relaxed planting of the former Spiral Garden (which was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith in 1991 shortly after Rosemoor was gifted to the RHS). The design and planting have stood the test of time with its subtle pastel tones and silvery foliage. Many of the original plants will be incorporated into the new Cool Garden, but the portfolio of plants, especially those with blue and white flowers, will be increased and the sinuous water feature will add a beautiful and reflective element.
The garden’s designer, Jo Thompson, explains the principles underlying the Cool Garden’s design: “Situated in a location with some of the highest recorded annual rainfall in the UK, we wanted to harness the abundance of water, by channelling it to a particular part of the site. This is a good example of how gardeners need to embrace the conditions they have to work with and turn a potential problem into a focal point.”
Jo continues: “Having the opportunity to work on a flagship garden such as RHS Rosemoor is a real privilege, by being able to make a landscape that is openly accessible to everyone to see and enjoy and be inspired by.”
Jonathan Webster, Curator at RHS Garden Rosemoor, said: “Although we have natural streams at Rosemoor, we want to show our visitors how a designed landscape can help to deal with heavy rainfall. As well as the rills, the lower section of the garden will be a permeable resin bound gravel to help reduce water run-off, showing how visitors can be inspired to find solutions at home.”
Planting is based upon a cool, pastel planting scheme and contrasts with the bold colours of the Hot Garden, which features reds, oranges, purples and yellows and is a blaze of bright colour in summer. Around 2,500 plants have been put in, with around 50% being recycled from the old Spiral Garden and the rest representing new plants to Rosemoor. Plants that have been specially selected are tried and tested in this region and include the silver birch Betula pendula Fastigiata Joes (‘Jolep 1’), selections of Hydrangea paniculata and Philadelphus, a selection of grasses to add movement and texture and Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ commonly called catmint.
Construction of the Cool Garden began last August by a local Devon-based company, Rural Stonework & Landscapes, who have built a couple of the show gardens at previous Chelsea Flower Shows. They have wonderful artisan skills in stone walling – a typical feature of the Devon countryside and were perfect for this garden. Around 125 tons of Cornish stone from Trebarwith Quarry was used and it took over 6000 man hours to complete. Water Artisans from Dorset were also invaluable as they advised on the construction of and then commissioned all the water features of the garden.
The official launch of the Cool Garden will take place during the first day of the Rosemoor Garden Flower Show (16-18 August) by Tim Upson, the RHS Director of Horticulture, who has been instrumental in getting the garden installed at Rosemoor. It will join the other permanent designer gardens such as the Model & Town Gardens, the Queen Mother’s and the Shrub Rose Gardens, the Winter Garden, the Cottage Garden, Potager and Foliage Garden all of which provide inspiration and ideas for visitors’ own gardens. During the show staff will be on hand in both Cool Garden and in the adjacent Hot Garden to talk through the designs and features with visitors.
Rosemoor’s Garden Flower Show is very different from the traditional RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows and is an altogether more relaxed experience. Instead of large floral marquees, the nurseries taking part each have a mini show garden and marquee spread through the stunning 65 acres of gardens. In addition to all the permanent designer gardens, there will be flower arranging demonstrations by top florist Jonathan Moseley, specialist talks from the nurseries and RHS staff and a floral display trail using some of the garden shelters and created by local floristry clubs with a theme of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (the RHS gardens summer holiday theme for families). Rosemoor also welcomes other local charities and organisations into the new ‘Community Village’. There will be plenty of delicious food and drink to tempt you as well as live music all three days.
Normal garden admission applies, which is free for RHS members. For more information on events visit rhs.org.uk/rosemoor.