The most sustainable Chelsea Flower Show garden ever?

Joanna Fortnam explores how Sarah Price and her team for the Nurture Landscape Garden are pushing the boundaries of how sustainable a show garden can be.

A forgotten garden in Hadleigh, Suffolk, has provided the creative inspiration for a show garden at Chelsea this year by designer Sarah Price (who won Chelsea gold in 2012 and 2018). “It’s very rare for me to be inspired by gardens,” she says. “I prefer the spontaneous planting I see in nature and on roadsides,” but in this case she was lucky enough to “turn up at the right moment and see something fresh and fleeting”. Her interpretation of a “ghost of a garden” will showcase traditional crafts and she aims to make her project as sustainable as possible.

The abandoned garden that provided Sarah’s starting point is not your average plot of brambles, collapsed fence panels and a rusty bike. This is Benton End, a manor house with 16th century origins, once the home of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing run by the plantsman-artist Sir Cedric Morris and his partner Arthur Lett Haines in the Fifties. In its heyday Benton was a legendary bohemian hub, visited by a constant stream of leading writers, artists and creatives….

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Cooking Masterclass
Borough Market: The Knowledge with Angela Clutton

If you follow the Thames path northwards from the Garden Museum, you will eventually find yourself at London’s premier food market – the world renowned Borough Market. Angela Clutton is responsible for their latest cookbook Borough Market: The Knowledge which explores the wide variety of traders at the market, along with recipes for their produce.

During the class you’ll learn recipes that showcase the joy of shopping and cooking seasonally and hear from Angela on why markets and seasonality matter, explore what spring / summer produce might be and ways to enjoy it.

Sample Menu

  • Black rice and feta stuffed chard with spiced yoghurt
  • Roasted asparagus with tarragon mayonnaise / hollandaise
  • Watercress soup with lemon & thyme breadcrumb

Sun 30 April, 10.45am – 2pm
£90, includes includes a sit down lunch and a recipe pack to take home

Book tickets

Online talk this week!
Alice Vincent: Why Women Grow

This week we are delighted to host the official launch of Alice Vincent’s new book Why Women Grow, a major narrative exploration of the relationship between women and the soil. Over the course of two, largely locked-down years, Alice visited the gardens and growing spaces of 45 women from all walks of life. Why Women Grow is a collection of these conversations.

Alice will be in conversation with Sui Searle (@decolonisethegarden), herbologist Maya Thomas and Ayurvedic Practitioner Anne McIntyre.

Tues 28 Feb, 7pm
In-person tickets are sold out, livestream still available!

Book tickets

Plant of the Week: Juniperus ‘Grey Owl’

By Matt Collins, Head Gardener

I have a soft spot for junipers — that beleaguered evergreen of the yesteryear shrubbery — developed almost entirely from encounters with their amorphous, ancient, often scruffy yet always remarkably resilient wild forms. I’ve found them creeping over ruined chapels in the Scottish highlands and spiking the narrow footpaths of Pyrenean woodlands; on Greek islands their bushy habit has harboured little pools of fragrant Mediterranean herbs, and in baking Oregon I walked among whole forests of juniper heady with their own intoxicating aroma (in the drought-ridden high desert there I met a 1,600 year old veteran Western juniper — Juniperus occidentalis — its branches shaped and smoothed by sand and wind, a survivor of centuries of forest fires).

Juniper forest in western Oregon
The domesticated exception was a visit to Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania, where, along with tumbling Michaelmas daisies and golden nassella grass, glaucous agaves and yuccas, gorgeous columnar junipers punctuated the stone steps of the gravel garden. The effect in autumn was strikingly bold, the little statement trees contrasting brilliantly with the softer perennials.
Juniper on Naxos in Greece
For our own developing gravel garden at the museum, I wanted to find a juniper that embodied the best of all these qualities — the resilience, the drought and cold tolerance, the berries, fragrance and the contrasting evergreen statement — and landed upon J. ‘Grey Owl’. It’s foliage veers towards the blue-green end of the spectrum (the other end is silver), yet its habit remains full and bushy: it creeps but it also bulks. I took a risk in planting larger specimens — a risk because our soil there is so dry — on account of how slow growing junipers can be, but already after two years in the ground they have put on impressive growth: a cultivar highly recommended.
About our gardens
Images: Sarah Price; Ben Boscence; Borough Market: The Knowledge image courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton (c) Kim Lightbody; Juniper photos (c) Matt Collins
Garden Museum
5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB