Sweat, Mud & Show Gardens Part 1….

Things have been somewhat quiet on the Little Acre Garden front of late. Partly on account of getting lost in the day to days. Partly due to a necessary refocus on bringing the house decor into the current era (in an effort to reduce the woodchip and anaglypta). Partly in order to spend time getting the admin side of the business ‘Little Acre Garden Design’ in hand, but mainly and by far the most enjoyable, because I’ve been taking time to get hands on experience, continue my professional development and get to know, in my own opinion, some of the very best people in the garden design business. So in a slight change of pace to the blog I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to the last month or so.

It all started with a week working for Matt Childs on his multi award winning Hampton Court Palace Flower Show garden, followed by spending a day with designers James and Helen Basson, discussing how they approach sustainable designs and last but… (and this phrase has never been more appropriate)… certainly not least, an evening listening to Rosy Hardy, nursery owner and planstperson extraordinaire, running through some of the current stock of flowering perennials.

So to adhere with the traditions of any classic tale….Once upon a time, in a land, well to be honest not that far away, I received an email from my garden design school, KLC School of Design. It was asking for volunteers to help out on the build at RHS Hampton Court for the B&Q sponsored Matt Childs show garden. As he was a previous student of KLC I’d followed Matts career to date and through the world of social media was aware of his successes at previous garden shows. Matt’s CV reads very well, moving into the world of garden design through a career change brought about through the most exceptional of circumstances, the details of which was highlighted in his ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ Hampton Court conceptual garden in 2012. Over the last 5 years or so Matt has won Gold medals and Best in Show at Hampton Court along with a highly impressive Silver Gilt at Chelsea. All that being said, even with the opportunity to work for Matt being a big draw…….the main star of this new garden was to be a plant that had a certain stigma attached, one that, although a staple of generations gone by, had lost favour of late …..The BUSY LIZZIE!

IMG_4922 4

Not the most thrilling of planting prospects. So although excited to be a part of things, there was a small note of trepidation looming in the depths of my mind as to whether the garden itself would stand up against the more conventional designs seen at the shows year on year. Within moments of receiving this, another email followed, again asking for volunteers, again from another highly prestigious designer. Except this time there was an emphasis put on giving the student volunteers a more rounded experience. The designer wanted the students to get a hands on experience, to learn and develop their skills.

So a quandary I was in …..not knowing the demand or how many students would respond I went for the scatter gun approach. Not wanting to limit my experiences, I had 7 days available (it would have been 9 days but I was told it was customary for a mum to be present at her 4 year olds birthday weekend) so I threw my first available 2 days in the direction of the Busy Lizzies and to the other garden offering the broader experience, I sent availability for the rest of my days.

Within moments the planting team leader on Matt Childs garden, the wonderful Humaira Ikram of Redscape Design, confirmed I would be needed and a short while after that so did the other garden. I was overjoyed at being given the opportunity to be involved in not one but two Hampton Court show gardens.

The date had been circled in the calendar and being the sort of person who likes to at least come across like I know what I’m doing (whether or not I actually have the slightest idea) I’d done my prep work. I’d read every article I could find, googled Busy Lizzies until the cows came home and learnt as much as I could about the garden and the plants as the internet could offer. What I read was intriguing……from the initial sketches there appeared to be less hanging baskets and neat 1970s borders than I’d expected, not a conifer or rockery, nor a glaring display of brash colour. The garden had my attention and that slight trepidation I initially had, had passed by the wayside. The email stated that Matt was looking for people to water and deadhead….not quite as exciting as the full on planting experience (such as that being offered later in the week) but I was just happy to have the chance to be involved and involved I was!

In the words of those much wiser than I, I’ve always tried to approach life with a general mantra of  ‘if a jobs worth doing…its worth doing well!’ So the first day arrived and I left my house an hour earlier than needed (what felt like shortly after dawn) just to be on the safe side (first impressions and all that) and it was a darn good job I did.

Upon finally locating the Hampton Court entrance I was meant to be at, I was met by a guard with a puzzled ‘who are you, what are you doing here, why are you disturbing the nap I was just having’ kind of look. He then proceeded to send me on a lovely drive of the Hampton Court deer park. Every guard I came across countered the previous directions and provided some of their own, with each giving me that similar look! 45 minutes later I’d somehow managed to obtain both my security and parking pass, along with becoming personally acquainted with every deer in the park.


A few more minutes of aimless wandering, this time on foot and I eventually by more luck than judgement stumbled upon the site of the garden, introducing myself to the delightful Matt Childs. Within 10 minutes I’d also had the lovely pleasure of greeting Matt’s Mum and Dad, his husband and the planting team, led by the equally lovely Humaira. I’d come to work and work we did.

Alongside Matts family, who were certainly giving their all to the cause, the other volunteers and I  were deadheading and watering our socks off. After only a couple of hours on site it became clear that, designer, paid worker, landscaper or volunteer, the garden was a team effort and we were all in it together, both a literal (in some cases) and a metaphorical family.  By the afternoon the jobs to do on the garden had broadened. Both Matt and Humaira were so unnecessarily grateful and appreciative of the time we were giving them, that they generously expanded the brief of our roles and allowed us the great honour of assisting with the planting (although to be honest I could have spent my whole week sat deadheading with Matts Mum, a wonderful lady who you could not help but be charmed by).

IMG_4904 2

And so came to a close my first day on site and I was buzzing, adrenaline was pumping and the following day could not come quick enough!

Thats probably a good place to stop the tale for now, a quick break for intermission, please use the facilities and there are drinks and ice creams available at the front of the auditorium……more to follow……..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s