For the RHS Wildlife Garden, award-winning designer Jo Thompson and her team have created a wildlife sanctuary, representing an urban corridor that has been reclaimed by nature. The garden will show that wildlife can thrive in unexpected places, such as abandoned urban areas or industrial landscapes, as long as there is a diverse range of plants to provide food and shelter for other species.
Jo was keen to shine a spotlight on hawthorn as a star species for wildlife, its spring blossom provides food for pollinators, while the dense spiky branches are an ideal nesting spot for birds and the shrub’s bunches of bright red berries are an important food supply for colder months. The garden will display hawthorn hedges bounding an abandoned railway line.
Wildlife gardener Kate Bradbury has lent her expertise to the project, helping make the most of the space by adding a wide variety of plants that are beneficial to wildlife. Research has shown that many species of insect, including butterflies, suffered from the soaring temperatures and drought of summer 2022, so much of the planting in the Wildlife Garden will be drought tolerant, giving wildlife food and cooler spots to rest even in extreme heat. Drought tolerant plants that will feature prominently include the purple baubles of Angelica sylvestris
‘Vicar’s Mead’ and the delicate yellow-leaved tree, Gleditsia triacanthos
In the RHS Resilient Garden, Tom Massey has designed a space to demonstrate resilience to the effects of a changing climate. The design accompanies Tom’s first book, ‘Resilient Garden’, which was written for the RHS in collaboration with the RHS Science team. The garden will illustrate many of the techniques discussed in the book, including planting to cope with weather fluctuations such as drought and flooding, and gardening to mitigate habitat loss in the wider countryside. The garden will give visitors plenty of ideas to take home and implement, ensuring their plots are more adaptable for the climate of the future.
One half of the garden will display planting for drought resilience, heat reduction, rainwater harvesting and the reduction of air pollution. Research by the RHS has shown that the hairy leaves of Cotoneaster franchetii
trap air polluting particles, so this will be used as a hedge, alongside pines that help cool and filter the air.
The second half will focus on sustainable water management, habitat creation, nature connection and an innovative method of grow your own, known as a ‘food forest’. The layered planting mimics a forest habitat, and most of the plants are edible or medicinal. Trees including Prunus species are surrounded by shrubs plants like blackcurrants, with wild strawberries and bugle covering the ground. All the plants in this section are tolerant of seasonally waterlogged conditions, and the design incorporates ponds and swales flowing through the forest.
The RHS Resilient Garden, supported by ACO, will feature innovative virtual reality technology showing a before and after transformation.
Helena Pettit, RHS Director of Gardens and Shows, said: “Gardens of all shapes and sizes can make an incredible difference for wildlife as well as being beneficial to the climate, so we are very excited to be showcasing this with the Wildlife Garden and Resilient Garden at RHS Hampton Court. We hope gardeners will be able to take inspiration from the designs, putting new ideas into practice to future-proof their gardens and creating space for biodiversity to thrive.”
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival runs from 4 - 9 July and tickets are available to buy online at www.rhs.org.uk/hamptoncourt