A life in plants with horticultural hero Sarah Eberle

Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden RHS Hampton Court 2022
The RHS Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden at the RHS Hampton Court 2022 show was infused with more than four decades of expertise and enthusiasm from designer Sarah Eberle. A walk-through garden, it took visitors on a journey through a range of environments from woodland edge to arid climes using plants grown in the UK and proven to thrive in British gardens.

A range of inspiration

Sarah Eberle“It’s basically my career to date in one garden,” said Sarah. And what a career it has been: from a woodland garden designed for the Daily Mail Pavilion (at Hampton Court Flower Show 2003) through to A Monaco Garden (Chelsea 2011) and The Resilience Garden (Chelsea 2019), Sarah's decades-long design career has been rich and varied. 

A Monaco Garden - Chelsea 2011

“For me it’s always about the planting rather than the overall design. I am bringing together all the experiences I have had, from exhibiting at flower shows to working in a range of climates, which have given me the opportunity to use a wide range of plants adapted to conditions from arid through to subtropical. It has a planting style I’m happy with at this stage of my life as it combines British natives with more unusual exotic plants.”
As well as plants connecting the different areas of the garden, from woodland edge to arid and then enriched meadow, Sarah also used hard landscaping to illustrate how different plant types can be grown. Arid and succulent plants, for example, were planted in between rocks on elevated sections surrounded by gravelly substrates. All materials are recycled, reused and are sustainable.
“All of the garden is feasible for people to replicate at home…and it has to be. Over the years I have learnt that however big the original idea for your show garden, there has to be something the people can take away. It needs to be ‘do-able’ and real. According to people’s likes and dislikes, there will naturally be parts of the garden that people feel more at home in, but hopefully there will be something in it for everyone.”

Planting at the Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden RHS Hampton Court 2022

Key plants

The arid section featured architectural plants with stunning forms and vibrant flowers, including Dasylirion wheeleriPuya chilensisYucca recurvifolia and the spiny hardy bromeliad, Fascicularia bicolor subsp. bicolor.
 Aeonium at the Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden 2022
Meanwhile the temperate woodland contained a range of British natives alongside some exciting exotic plants from afar. Carpinus betulus (hornbeam), Corylus avellana (hazel), a selection of ferns, tree ferns and cycads, Farfugium japonicum (leopard plant), Podophyllum peltatum and Iris foetidissimia (stinking iris).
In the meadow and prairie section lupins rubbed shoulders with single flowered Rosa Kew Gardens (‘Ausfence’), Rosa Tottering-by-Gently (‘Auscartoon’), Kniphofia (red hot poker) in a range of colours and the catmint Nepeta govaniana.

Fascicularia bicolor

Promoting health benefits

“I am always interested in the health benefits of plants in terms of mental health and what we can learn from plants to improve our lives. But also what you can grow at home or forage and what’s edible will contribute to your palette. This is why the garden also includes some unusual herbs,” said Sarah.

A garden with a message

“The intention is for the garden, even though it’s made of different sections, to be read as one. I want people to be inspired to have a go themselves. Even though they may have one garden, it can have many different styles within it.”

‘I hope my enthusiasm shines through. I’ve been doing this for 45 years and plants have been my constant passion all the way through.’

Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum'

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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.