RHS Learning Garden

Students win nationwide RHS competition to design 'Plant Factory' garden inspired by the idea of plants as machines

Artists impression of the Learning Garden

Two landscape architect students have won the nationwide competition to design a new learning garden at RHS Garden Bridgewater. Stella Yang and Karsan Karavadra, from Manchester Metropolitan University, will see their winning design come to life within the new fifth RHS garden when it opens to the public in 2021. 

Where will the garden be? 

The Learning Garden will be created within the historic 11-acre Walled Garden, one of the largest of its kind in the UK. It will sit alongside a Kitchen Garden designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medallists Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg; a Paradise Garden designed by renowned Landscape Architect Tom Stuart-Smith; a wellbeing garden and community teaching allotments. The Walled Garden, supported by The Garfield Weston Foundation,  forms part of the wider masterplan for the 154-acre garden, also created by Tom Stuart-Smith.

The Walled Garden before work started

What's the design concept?

The students’ design, called ‘The Plant Factory’, is based on the idea of plants as machines and will teach all ages about the nature of plants and how they work. Acting as an outdoor learning space, the garden will explore the concept of the plant as a factory, showing how ‘products’ (light, nutrients, water and warmth) transform into physical attributes (leaves, stem, roots, aroma) to create very different plants. It will be modular, so it that can be moved around to suit different user groups and will be designed in a post-industrial style, using recycled materials where possible, as well as materials such as hardwood that will weather. Highlights will include an ‘Eco-Chimney’, which will be used to grow climbers and host bird and bat boxes; a ‘Workhouse’ Greenhouse to grow exotic plants, a ‘Test Area’ where students of all ages can experiment, and a Sun Zone. 

Key design opportunity for students

Marcus Chilton-Jones, Curator, RHS Garden Bridgewater said: “This is the first time that the RHS is giving landscape architecture students the chance to design a key area of an RHS Garden and we were astounded by the quality of entries to the competition. We chose this one because it is flexible, playful, engaging and it fits well with the national curriculum. It also links plants with local industrial heritage and reflects the different microclimates we have on site.”

"As the region's only landscape architecture course, we were delighted to collaborate with the RHS on this competition, which engaged all the students and generated a range of highly creative ideas and proposals. We were very pleased at the outcome and are hoping to follow up this positive experience with further collaborations in the future."  
Eddy Fox, Programme Leader for Landscape Architecture, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Ben Brace, Horticultural Projects Manager, RHS said: “We're committed to encouraging and supporting young designers, and this is a fantastic opportunity for them to make their mark in horticulture alongside some of the biggest names in garden design.”

The winning designs were selected by a panel of RHS Garden curators and advisors. The students will now help to bring the garden to life as their designs go from paper to reality over the next year. 

The RHS is currently fundraising to create RHS Garden Bridgewater and we need to raise £4.8m to create this new resource for the North West. Up to 7,000 local schoolchildren each year will visit Bridgewater for a variety of free activities and workshops.  

Watch our video to find out more about this exciting project.  

More about our fifth RHS Garden

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.