Pop culture planting

Two funky easy-to-follow designs shown at three different stages, showing the realities of planning and planting a garden – all with a generous pinch of fun

Pop culture plantingAmanda Grimes’ Punk Rockery Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2021 was an unconventional, almost ‘anti’ Show Garden. It re-used materials usually bound for a skip: lumps of concrete, old paving, scaffold boards, rubble and poor soil. Then added tough, tolerant but truly beautiful plants, creating a show-stopping garden that was colourful, engaging and buzzing with life.

For the RHS Urban Show, Amanda is creating two beds inspired by pop culture and deeply rooted in Manchester’s music scene. Both installations are about giving new and inexperienced gardeners the confidence and inspiration to give it a go.

Reflecting the fact that gardens are rarely, if ever, ‘instant’ each installation is in three parts, with the design repeated to illustrate the scheme at the time of planting, at one year on, and after two years. Not everything will be in flower or full growth either. Instead, this approach aims to show what to expect as a garden develops naturally over time. That a little planning and patience can create relatively low-maintenance, but high-interest planting.

Punk Rockery - the New Wave

Punk Rockery
Planting on Punk Rockery Divided spaces on Punk Rockery

Punk Rockery hits Manchester in the same way the Sex Pistols did in June 1976. That now-legendary gig was the spark that lit the touch paper of the whole Manchester New Wave music scene which included Buzzcocks, Joy Division (New Order), The Fall, Magazine, The Smiths and Factory Records, and went on to inspire so many more. The installation is named in honour of all that creativity which was, and still is, uniquely Mancunian.

Punk Rockery – the New Wave is about embracing that punk DIY spirit. Inspiring people to make a garden from scratch out of what they’ve got or can salvage, without needing to be a horticultural or design genius. Plants are chosen to suit the northern climate with varieties that can cope with a regular drenching as well as periods of drought. Materials reflect Manchester’s grand red brick buildings and terraced houses, its erstwhile factories, mills and depots, and other remnants of the city’s industrial past uncovered by its current renewal.

24-Hour Party Planting

24-Hour Party Planting
Party planting border Planting boxes

24-Hour Party Planting is a celebration of Manchester’s thriving nightlife, restaurant and entertainment scene. It picks up where Punk Rockery left off – in musical terms at least – referencing the Happy Mondays’ track of the same name, and with it the hedonistic days of the Haçienda. It traces that legacy through to 2024 and the incredibly diverse, vibrant and endlessly creative energy of the Gay Village, Northern Quarter, Salford and beyond.

Key Features of Pop Culture Planting

  • Red brick rubble and green roof substrate with poor soil – to show you don’t need perfect soil to grow a garden.
  • Easily sourced or reclaimed materials to add interest to planting. Showing you don’t need to spend lots of money or time.
  • Plants shown at different stages of growth, from when they are young and small with lots of space around them through to their two-year growth – to illustrate what to expect at each stage, to allow space for plants to fill out, and to foster patience.
  • Plants that are tolerant of drought but which can withstand a deluge – the sort that might be found in urban swales.
  • A demonstration of how coming up with an idea or concept for your garden and plantings really helps to create something cohesive.

Amanda Grimes working on her Punk Rockery garden
Horticulturally, the scheme introduces novice gardeners to the idea of successional planting as a way of keeping the ‘party’ going. How to have colour and texture now and in four months time, and even something in winter by using evergreens. Planting aims to be bold, colourful and a whole lot of fun – just like a good night out should be.

The design features three levels of planting that can be replicated as a whole, or in part, making the scheme flexible for a range of spaces. Plants are suitable for containers, roof terraces and balconies as well as new urban gardens. They include bulbs, annuals and plants that work well at dusk, attract moths and look good in garden lighting.

Amanda GrimesAmanda says: “I spent my childhood outdoors in the countryside – I had such freedom to go off and explore and was fascinated by plants and insects. I went on to art college and ended up working in advertising as a creative (copywriter), but I longed to be outside again, so I jumped ship and never looked back. My work is very much influenced by those early experiences of nature; I find natural landscapes endlessly inspiring – from boggy windswept moors, to sun-baked Mediterranean hillsides – and try to distil their essence into my designs. My interest in modern art, music and theatre also throws a lot of inspiration into the mix.”

Amanda’s top urban gardening tips

  • Don’t fret over the traditional gardening advice you see on TV and in magazines – the chances are, your garden is not going to have decent soil, plenty of light or lots of space. There are alternatives, seek them out.
  • Use water to your advantage – it pours off your roof tops for much of the year, so don’t fight it, go with it and create a rain garden.
  • Find a local gardening or community garden group and enjoy learning from others; save money by swapping plants; get involved and create little plots of joy wherever you can.

You might also be interested in...

RHS Membership

Members enjoy early booking and discounted tickets to RHS Shows.

Join the RHS

Get involved

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.