One garden which has stayed with me since I’ve come home from Chelsea Flower Show is the one Sean Murray produced as the winner of TV’s recent Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. His brief was to design a garden illustrating some of the key points in the RHS’s latest campaign, Greening Grey Britain.
It was the darkness of the slate in Sean’s garden which first caught my eye as it reminded me of our tarmac drive of similar hue. Our drive’s developed a worrisome sag recently, plus it regularly turns green in the autumn from colonising algae and moss. These are a devil to clean off. Tarmac is impervious, so our clay soil underneath has shrunk and the moss and algae can comfortably make a home on this surface where other plants can’t. Sean’s slate alternative meant water could drain off easily, thus showing a neat solution to my problems.
Instead of slate, I’ll be looking at other options for replacing my drive which echo the red brick and limestone-like stonework of our neighbourhood. We already have some gravelled areas nearby, so that’s one option, though I do rather like the brickwork drive a neighbour’s installed. They’ve incorporated some nifty raised beds too which house some lavender, plus smallish shrubs including a choisya and euonymus.
I also liked the narrow planting Sean placed in the middle of the parking area. He had plenty of zingy yellows and limes, though the bugle (Ajuga repens) he used would be more suited to my garden. Low growing, tough as old boots plants are needed, so I’d add a variety of saxifrages and experiment with some thymes to add a scented welcome. These could also be added to the gravelled areas at the side of our drive to link the parking space with our small front garden.
A recent survey commissioned by the RHS revealed that in just 10 years, we’ve tripled the paved area in our front gardens and now almost a quarter of them are completely paved over. This has implications for the warming of our cities, the increased potential for flooding as well as contributing to the demise of our wildlife.
The RHS is seeking to reverse this situation. Their survey also highlighted the north east of England which bucked the trend by actually increasing their green space available. They also recognise our need for a practical space out front, so are seeking to showcase viable solutions which use a combination of porous materials and plants like those I’m considering. This year’s Britain in Bloom will be at the forefront of the campaign, as will the remaining RHS’s shows in 2015 where further ideas will be showcased in addition to those seen at Chelsea.
Have a look at the RHS’s dedicated Greening Grey Britain pages for lots of ideas and information on what you can do to make a difference in your garden: https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/gardening-in-a-changing-world/greening-grey-britain
Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and blogger from Wiltshire. She is the author of the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where she writes about her small town garden, seasonal food and anything else which strikes her whilst up at her allotment.