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Project: Recycling a show garden

Project: Recycling a show garden

Pre-Registered SGD Member Caitlin McLaughlin designed a show garden for RHS Hampton Court Festival that went on to enrich the grounds of a hospice


When designing the Urban Pollinator Garden, I approached my local hospice in Kettering, to discuss creating a permanent garden for their patients and staff, by repurposing the show garden. The garden relocation needed the approval of the hospice teams, both office and clinical; the NHS; and the staff and residents of Sunley Court residential home, who also share the garden space. This involved not just redesigning the garden to suit a range of clients, but also ensuring it would fit within the space allocated, which was much larger than the show garden itself.

Taking an 8m sq show garden, I redesigned the elements to fit a 21m-long triangular space with concrete pathways around the sides. The garden was also viewed from all sides by bedrooms – a big difference from a show garden with a hedge background on two boundaries. Using the hard and soft landscaping elements from RHS Hampton Court, I designed planting beds running along the lawn and concrete pathways, which were retained for ease of mobility.

Designer Caitlin McLaughlin

Three Malus toringo crab apple trees were positioned towards the corners of the triangle so the blossom could be seen and enjoyed from residents’ bedrooms, and the paving was used as a large square patio, laid flush with the concrete paths to ensure wheelchairs and day beds could transition easily into the garden.

One of the biggest hurdles was just moving the garden to Kettering, a 90-mile journey. We used an articulated lorry and filled it with trees, gravel and paving, plants and the habitat walls, which were exceptionally stressful to fit in and secure. Unfortunately, we had some mishaps – one of the habitat walls broke apart as it was being removed from the show garden, so we had to reposition the other two habitat walls to ensure these would fill the new space. Our metal pond also sustained damage, rendering it unusable as a repurposed raised bed.

We decided to build a block work raised bed instead and face it with our show garden hexagon tiles in a decorative pattern, but the tiles were too thick and heavy to fix along the blocks, which we only discovered when they slowly slipped to the floor. We rectified this by purchasing different tiles to face the walls instead.

The garden took just over two weeks to move, build and plant, starting the day after the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival finished. I volunteered my time for this period, working alongside contractors and volunteers to get the garden completed in time for the Cransley Hospice official garden opening. It was a lot of work and long days, including weekends, but I’m really happy with the garden, and the response from residents and staff has been lovely.   

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