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How can history be a new idea in a garden?

Did you know that the iconic Sussex Trug

hails from Herstmonceux?


And did you know that this picturesque village is also home to Perfect Plants Ltd? 

Why should you be interested? 

Because a link to history can form the basis for individual design and atmosphere within an outdoor space. It immediately lends a sense of meaning and purpose. If you can weave some sort of relevant story into your own garden  you will see that the place seems to come alive with possibilities.  

The Chatsworth Garden at RHS Chelsea 2015 But how can you make this happen? History can be suggested in a multitude of different ways. For example you can incorporate statues and ornaments. But beware of including too many dis-connected trinkets that fragment the space. Big is usually best - and even a small garden grows in stature if it has a substantial focal feature.  

Even contemporary garden features can be connected to a relevant aspect of history to give the surroundings a 'sense of place'.  Garden mirrors; old doorways and hedge archways can suggest a certain time period or links to something beyond the boundary. Sculptures; the shapes of flowerbeds; iconic ponds and even structural plants can mimic an element of a property. Just look at the style of the house windows or the angular shape of the build to notice the possibilities. Owners of an Arts & Crafts property (a fine example is National Trust's Standen in West Sussex) might want to represent a style of 'garden rooms' outside, but even a small garden should be designed to blend with the theme of a house rather than being entirely separate.  

Sometimes the same historic idea can work in reverse - as with that humble trug, for example. It forms the purpose of an Artisan garden at RHS Chelsea this week. The making of such a vessel goes back some 200 years and it was originally used for measuring liquid or grain.  Trugs are world-renowned for their strength, durability and usefulness and the 'Trugmaker's Garden' at Chelsea applauds the dying craftsmanship of Sussex Trugmakers.  

The Trugmaker's Garden by Tina Vallis and Serena Fremantle So in this case the garden was built around history, rather than history being incorporated into a garden. The theme for the space was inspired by the story of one particular trugmaker, a Mr Smith who was proud to take some royal orders during The Great Exhibition in the 1850s. Queen Victoria asked him to craft several trugs as gifts for her family.  So Thomas Smith put his finished trugs into a wheelbarrow and walked them all the way from Herstmonceux to Buckingham Palace! The purpose of the Chelsea garden was to highlight the history behind traditional trug-making. The garden supported and acknowledged the skills that are being lost due to mass-market production. How would you go about such a task? Designers Tina Vallis and Serena Fremantle depict a typical trugmaker's garden at the front of a timber workshop. It incorporates a vibrant planting scheme indicative of its historic past and as a means of attracting passing trade. The garden contains traditional perennials such as Achillea;  Alchemilla; Brunnera; Dryopteris; Euphorbias; Berberis and many more useful but entirely beautiful specimens that have been thoughtfully combined to represent a tiny slice of history.  

The moral of this history lesson? Try to incorporate something relevant into your own garden and then expand the theme to give it unity. Think about links to the house itself and beyond the borders to the wider world. If there is just one 'new' idea to take forward from RHS Chelsea 2015 it is this: think outside the box and create some sort of relevant meaning. Your garden will be all the more wonderful for it.  


By Perfect Plants


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