Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Garden – RHS Chatsworth 2018

Congratulations to both Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Experian volunteer team who did a great job building the stand for RHS Chatsworth flower show. STOP PRESS – We won an RHS 3 Star Award!!

Not only was I thrilled to be asked to work with the trust, I really enjoyed a different type of design challenge. Usually I have an existing garden with architecture, features and plants or trees to work with. Here I had a blank canvas on which to create a garden to illustrate the beautiful and varied Derbyshire landscape. The brief was also to create a garden which could be built by staff & volunteers with no landscaping or horticultural experience. A garden which could be taken apart and moved to another events, and ultimately to The Whistlestop Visitor Centre at Matlock Bath for the public to enjoy. So simplicity, portability, and durability were key considerations.

Materials & Concept Board
Materials & Concept Board

After we worked to tighten up the brief, we agreed on a concept for the garden and the key materials. Then I started deconstructing the county map, and playing with shapes with marker pens, highlighting key zones; The Dark Peak, The White Peak, Derwent valley,  farmland, Derby city etc. And finding a way to put it back into a 4m square garden. It was important that the design was a garden, not a landscape model, and seating and a canopy were essential to make a comfortable and engaging spot. 

Map deconstruction
Map deconstruction


We wanted to create height, Derbyshire rises to over 2,000 ft above sea level, and the obvious material to use was stone. The distinctive outcrops of stone and geology from a volcanic past, have for centuries provided local building material which now characterises the towns, villages and farmland.

I recommended gabion cages, as a fun and modern yet practical solution to create a sympathetic style whilst not requiring skilled labour. These are filled with stone, reclaimed bricks and logs; each representing elements of the map. The brick represent the towns and the city of derby.

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Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Garden Design – RHS Chatsworth 2018

The dark peak is represented with the tallest gabion pillar topped with heather. The white peak is the second gabion providing a focal point with a feature log pile tumbling down to a single specimen tree symbolising the woodland valleys. 

There is a nod to the Derbyshire farmland with mixed native hedging at the back of the design and an agricultural galvanised trough – which also holds a length of water for the Derbyshire rivers.

layout plan dwt:chats part scan
Layout Drawing

Once I had created a layout plan & an illustration, I turned my attention to developing the planting scheme. This starts with a long list of potential plants, which I then narrow down based on the brief. A broad mixture of wild flowers and garden cultivars were carefully selected to be beneficial to wildlife while reflecting our local landscape. Derbyshire has various habitats from moors to meadows and woodland valleys, so we used plants such as the cranesbill, yarrow, ox eye daisies, bulbous buttercups, grasses such as the stunning native deschampsia flexuousa. Finally shade loving foxgloves and ferns  are arranged around a multi stemmed silver birch tree. 

plant list RHS Chats 2018
Plant List

Finally I supplied a shopping list for all the materials and The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust team took the reins. They gathered materials and a team of willing volunteers to build the garden.

The aim was to create an engaging, tactile and social spot; a place for people to relax, chat and connect to nature at the show. Somewhere where people will be able to touch the water and get really close to the plants.

It was the first time I had designed anything to hand over in this way. As ever, things are always tweaked once building is underway, so there were some adjustments. There is so much pressure to get everything right and to be ready on time, but the team pulled it off!


For more information on Derbyshire Wildlife Trust click here.