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Project: Regeneration garden

Project: Regeneration garden

Martyn Wilson


Martyn Wilson’s show garden ‘Brownfield – Metamorphosis’ was a hit at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2017


As part of the new ‘Gardens for a changing world’ category, my Gold-medal winning show garden took an abstract look at regeneration and demonstrated nature’s ability to thrive against the odds. The design was inspired by the High Line in New York; Landschaftspark, Duisburg-Nord in Germany; and successful brownfield regeneration schemes in the UK.

The garden was sponsored by regeneration specialist St Modwen. One of the largest landholders in the UK, it owns the former MG Rover site in Birmingham and the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire, among many others. I used to work as a town planner and had previously dealt with brownfield applications in that capacity. I was familiar with St Modwen’s work at Longbridge and approached them for sponsorship. I was fortunate that the CEO Mark Allan was interested in the concept.

Along with Michael Walker, Trentham’s Head of Garden and Estate, I spent a day exploring Nine Elms in London for inspiration looking at derelict sites – St Modwen is currently regenerating the New Covent Garden Markets in this area. The windows in the hoardings of the show garden are directly inspired by the site at Nine Elms – usually we can’t see what’s behind them.


Steel sculptures add structure, which is softened by the planting. Photo: Martyn Wilson/St Mowden


I used concrete blocks that normally keep people out of building sites to create a seating area. The steel structures referenced the manufacturing industries of the Industrial Age. The planting took inspiration from the naturalisation and self-seeding that occurs on brownfield sites. I included pioneer species such as Betula pendula, plus Buddleja ‘Wisteria Lane’, Deschampsia flexuosa and D. cespitosa. Daucus carota ‘Dara’ proved popular with the public and I added Asplenium scolopendrium and Dryopteris filix-mas for the damp shaded corners of the garden.

To manage costs and for sustainability I borrowed many elements of the garden. The steel sculptures by Simon Probyn were pre-sold at RHS Malvern before the show and are now with clients. The walls were on loan from the Pot Company and the concrete blocks were rented. The steel structures sat on concrete footings donated by Easymix Concrete. The garden was mulched with aggregates recycled from brownfield sites and donated by Smiths of Bletchington. The hoarding showing work by street artist Louis Masai was bought by St Modwen.

I wondered if the demographic of visitors to the show would ‘get’ the garden. They certainly did. A lot of people can associate with these sorts of sites; plus, there’s a wider debate about housing and appropriate sites. People are familiar with this in their own communities.  

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