Recently we were at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show where we found a lot of flower creative ideas. We were particularly impressed by the Poets’ garden marquee and we had a chance to talk to Jayne Thomas, a professional garden designer based in Surrey, who created a garden inspired by one of Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s most famous poems dedicated to Mont Blanc.
Jayne explained all about how individual elements of the poem inspired her building a mountain, making friends with a witch and discovering the natural beauty that inspired the poet.
How did you come up with the idea of a garden inspired by Shelley?
The RHS announced the themed gardens as being around six famous English poets. I chose Shelley because the more I read about him, the more I found to enjoy. He was a politically active young man, born to wealth but outraged by the social injustice at the time. He travelled to Ireland and Italy to support the plight of the poor.
He wrote Mont Blanc having discovered the tallest mountain in Europe, which inspired him to have profound thoughts challenging the nature of the mountain’s creation itself.
His thoughts led him to challenge the ‘large frauds’ which were the wealthy ruling classes of the time, who were indifferent to the general suffering of the populace. Intrigued by witchcraft and as an insult to the religious piety of the day, he introduced the witch Poesy living in the still cave behind the waterfall.
What were the main difficulties/challenges in creating the garden?
My garden was built with forty tons of Somerset limestone. The biggest obstacle after taking delivery of the rocks was to transform the raw ingredients into a pretty garden. I chose a witch’s knot pattern as a design for the whole garden. To create a mountain stream and waterfall from a huge pile of rocks, that did justice to the power of the poem, proved to be a task and a half!
Is there a plant/flower/area you are particularly attached to in this garden?
I really liked the edelweiss twinkling on the top layer of planting, but for me the summer wildflower meadow grass was my favourite. As a child my favourite book was Heidi, and the meadow grass with 50 per cent wildflowers was the most rewarding part of the garden. It was planted on a very steep slope just like the garden in Wales where I grew up, so for me it was my Heidi meadow.
What most attracted the visitors’ attention?
I think they were mostly taken with the meadow. I planted cultivated plants above it, and then inter-planted clumps of wildflower, so that there was a transition from the wildflower meadow, through the airy cultivated plants, Sidalcea, Catananche Verbena and Gypsophilla. They all looked very happy to see my pretty witch behind the waterfall with dramatic red planting and spider lilies around the stream.
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