A Tatton show garden in the making: ‘Sleep Well’ a garden for wellbeing

‘The bed and the quilt’

There has been a very exciting development! The ‘Sleep Well’ garden will be rebuilt at Wirral Autism Together, Bromborough Pool Garden Centre, where it will be enjoyed for years to come [Wirral Autism Together]. I always wanted to donate the garden to a place where people could use it as therapy through sleeping, relaxing and/or light gardening. At Autism Together it will serve exactly that purpose-although Joan (the centre’s manager) is fearful there will be too much temptation to sleep and not get gardening!

Back to the show garden

The full sized bed arrangement that features in the garden includes an extendable daybed covered with a quilt and partially sheltered by a covered arch.

The bed

Lying ‘in state’: the extended daybed, an old quilt and the arch

The bed consists of a metal daybed with an extension (called a trundle) to make it into a double bed size. The daybed is like a very deep sofa with high sides and back, and I have painted the whole thing with black Hammerite to weatherproof it. The daybed (and the arch that will stand over it as a canopy) is ornate and will look elegant even when the bed is undressed during winter months. The width of the daybed is 198cm and easily accommodates a tall person lying down, and the high sides and back give a feeling of enclosure and shelter even though it was snowing in the photo! The wooden slats that form the bed base (or seat) were flimsy and so we are replacing them with stronger slats. I picture the scene as an RHS judge hears and feels sharp snapping sounds as they lower in for the whole relax/sleep experience but end up on the gravel beneath!

The arch

This a wonderful Gothic style arch from Agriframes [Agriframes] that looks very stately and is a beautiful garden feature. It stands at 3m high and I tell myself it WILL look good in the 6 x 4m show garden. Of course I chose the arch for the design, but looking up at its 3m looming towards the sky I feel a little anxious about scale and design rules being broken. The arch has a great outline and it seems a shame to cover it with a canopy, but the effect with the canopy will be opulent and add to the marvellous theatre of the whole ‘set’. One will feel less ‘person lying in state’ and more the ‘Mata Hari’!

I can also imagine the arch overgrown with glossy dark green ivy and its globular midnight coloured berries providing interest in the garden in the winter, as well as providing a refuge for wildlife. Plantlife may be ‘allowed’ to take over the daybed too, creating a scene I have in mind from my ‘Giant Book of Fairytales’ where Sleeping Beauty lies in a deep sleep amidst undergrowth of brambles, which the prince has to cut through. I wonder if Kate Moss is free?

The quilt

The quilt is bespoke and will be designed and made by textile artist Janet Haigh [Janet Haigh][Kaffe Fassett quilt]. We used the plant pictures to select a minimal number of fabrics taken from an extensive collection of floral prints designed by Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably.


quilt illo
Illustration showing ideas for the  day bed quilt, canopy, cushions and fabrics

This was almost impossible since I wanted all the fabrics!! Janet asked me to choose my favourite print (a brassica head in a green/purple colourway) and showed me how to ‘fussy cut’ it to make the central square for the quilt, from which the rest of the quilt ‘grows’. The whole process was started by attaching fabric squares to a grid on the wall to facilitate arranging the fabrics to the desired effect. She demonstrated the use of colour and pattern in the design, and how different the fabrics looked from a distance and when placed next to different neighbouring squares. As my colour scheme is quite cool and restful, Janet suggested using warm colours for the fabric inside the quilt, where one will be asleep. The size of the quilt will be large for a sumptuous effect, and all the bedding (quilt, pillows, mattress roll) will fit into a weatherproof pack that will sit within the folded trundle under the daybed when not in use.

From my initial ideas to the current design

Originally I had pictured a wooden four poster bed set in an overgrown meadow made from reclaimed timber. The issues with this idea included: looking a bit rustic/clumsy in a show garden setting, not much winter appeal, and the fact that it’s always a double bed size. The day bed and arch should provide the same impact but will mean it can provide structure and interest to the garden even during winter months or inclement weather.

Will it rain? Probably. If it does shall I stow the quilt away or cover it with thin plastic? If I stow it away and later, when the rain stops, dress the bed, it will show off the versatility of the arrangement. Lord Leverhulme slept outside most of his life despite the weather!

Lord Leverhulmes Bed
Carl Walker’s atmospheric photograph of Lord Leverhulme’s bed outside on the balcony [Carl Walker]
On a more positive note- will somebody famous lie in my bed? Dan Pearson, Monty Don, or just me- exhausted and making full use of the ‘Sleep Well’ garden!

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!

Next time: the budget

2 thoughts on “A Tatton show garden in the making: ‘Sleep Well’ a garden for wellbeing”

  1. That was interesting. I think your choice of colours in the quilt is most important as it could end up taking too much focus away from the whole. So toning in with your leaf and flower shade is key. Working in some plants into the quilt edge (like your brambles idea) and the canopy sounds good.


    1. Hi Lis, thanks for your comments and glad it was interesting. We were very focused on using only colours present in the planting- quite a task since there are so many beautiful fabrics in Kaffe Fassett’s collection! Let’s hope it all works for the show!


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