Turn the clock back to 2015. The team at the Institute of Quarrying was well aware that just over the horizon was the opportunity to celebrate a real milestone in our history - our centenary. How do you mark such an achievement and make it memorable, as well as providing a legacy for future members?
What started as a throwaway comment about a flower show quickly crystallised with all involved and the idea of the ‘Quarry Garden’ was born. The timing was perfect too. We’d just heard of the Royal Horticultural Society’s plans to host their first ever show at Chatsworth. Being based in Nottingham, it felt like the stars were aligning for our 100th anniversary.
Sanction was sought from our board members as to do this properly is no small undertaking, both in terms of financial commitment and people needed to make it happen. The green light was given at the start of 2016 and so started an 18-month journey, which will culminate at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show in June this year.
So where do you start? None of us has ever been involved in creating a show garden before, the closest being planting a few bulbs and perennials in the back garden. Our world revolves around mineral extraction and big machinery. As an organisation responsible for developing people’s skills, we wanted the project to inspire future generations, and that started with the design. We approached Nottingham Trent University and found them more than willing to get involved.
Five Horticulture foundation degree students from the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Science stepped forward. We provided them with a brief for the project, from which they created mood boards, drawings and 3D plans of their ideas. These were then presented to a panel, including RHS award winning garden designer Paul Hervey-Brookes. He came highly recommended and we soon discovered why.
Each student created their own interpretation of the design brief, which Paul subsequently developed into the final ‘Quarry Garden’ concept, drawing on inspiration from each student’s garden design.
For the students, their design was just the start of an ongoing involvement in the garden’s development. They’re also shadowing Paul on visits to suppliers of the planting for the garden, as well as hard and soft landscaping suppliers. They’ll also be on the show garden at RHS Chatsworth to see the finished garden and to see their individual influence on the design. Not a bad way to supplement your studies!
Unknown to us, you have to apply to the RHS to get permission for your garden to appear at their shows. Paul guided us through this process, which was an education in itself. The garden design is for a fictitious professional couple who have built a contemporary house and want a garden with a contemporary feel that reflects the inspiration of quarries.
Paul’s final design is inspired by quarrying sites both productive and disused, coupled with brutalist architecture. The Quarry Garden is split into three areas that have direct access from three parts of the imagined house. Some areas feel floriferous and naturalistic, whilst other parts feel severe and uncompromising, reflecting the inspiration of industrial landscapes.
The hard landscaping materials have been chosen to reflect different sectors of the quarrying industry - from cement to aggregates. The main sculptural element is a fissure which is horizontally carved into an imposing three-metre-high, 10 metre long stone wall that forms an outer boundary of the garden. The fissure descends and travels into the paving in a more traditional format and is part of the re-imagining of the elements of a real quarry as a garden space. This references the journey that happens naturally in nature and is transformed within a controlled environment.
The garden features a bronze structure that acts as a visual reminder of the link between minerals and products. Pre-cast concrete also features in the design, inspired the extraction stage of quarrying.
Finally, Paul’s planting scheme is a mixture of UK native plants, naturalised plants and simple garden plants which create a beautiful 'gardened' space, whilst actively increasing biodiversity and habitat potential. This fits well with the concept of nature after extraction ceases and how it reclaims these spaces, often creating greater biodiversity than existed prior to extraction.