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

The budget and shopping.

Breaking news! The garden is now live on the RHS website [RHS Tatton Park 2018] . It now seems very real and I am pleased with the beautiful illustration by Stephen Jacobson and Janet Haigh [Janet Haigh, Stephen Jacobson], it looks quite different in its simplicity and so it stands out. The other seven B2B gardens look amazing and I cannot wait to meet the other designers and builders. My garden design business ‘Trug Garden Design’ website is also live! [ Trug Garden Design ]. The other news is that I was asked to give a talk about the garden for the Friday of Wellbeing Week at the University of Liverpool [Wellbeing Week talk].

I thought I would talk a little about budget and sourcing – when I decided the garden was for wellbeing (sleep) it was always the intention to rebuild it where it would be used for just that. I therefore decided to fund the garden myself, since the NHS/charitable organizations are desperately cash poor and I would be happy to donate the garden. My budget was set at £3k with the hope most of the bills would paid from my monthly salary as they arose, I have an understanding husband who can pay the mortgage! The cost of higher ticket items such as the lily bowl were spread over 2-3 pay packets and £3k was to be everything down to travel to the show and accommodation during the build – we live one hour’s drive away.

January sales!

Once I knew my design had been accepted I allowed myself to shop online for the key plants I needed. Mature specimens are necessary for instant effect so were a good place to start, I found Paramount Plants [Paramount Plants]. ‘There’s 70% off quite a few mature trees at Paramount’ I shout, barely able to contain my excitement. ‘That’s good, so how much are the things you want?’ comes the distracted reply. ‘Not sure which I want, but about £60’. ‘That’s good-is that for a few?’ ‘No, each’. Now focused: ‘so something you’re not sure about costs £60 per plant?’ ‘These are full standard fig trees as high as a door, they’re so good’. ‘Mmmm- what’s the point of the garden again?’ I concentrate on the trees -figs or silver birch? I dither for two weeks, it is now February but the sale continues. I decide on three figs and log on to buy them- only two left!!Things are better in threes or fives, what to do? Ho hum, I click pay – two bargain trees secured. I’m sure a pair will work well!

paramount buys
Some magnificent fig trees and an example of the Santolinas I have 36 of- only 20cm tall!

Boomerang orders

One of the key plants in my design was Santolina ‘Edward Bowles’, to make the ‘cushions’ in the front of the show garden. I needed pale yellow button flowers, not bright yellow. No joy anywhere, only 1 litre plants available. After 4-5 weeks of searching/calling nurseries in the UK (and France) I plump for the common Santolina (I can cut the flowers off) and Santolina Lemon Fizz, a rather interesting variety with lime green foliage and cream flowers. I order and pay for £300 worth of the two types. Pleased to secure them I received an email to say they would be delivered soon. The next week they tell me the plants will be delivered the following day, I book a last minute day’s leave from work to be at home when they come. We live up a very narrow unadopted road that on some days even a mini driver from the Italian Job would struggle with! When I return from work there is an answerphone message telling me the plants are not available and the money has been refunded. I phone up the next day and the manager apologizes and assures me that some Santolinas can be found and ‘leave it with me’. After a further 1-2 weeks I call them to check progress. They call back- sorry the plants are not available in those numbers! And so goes the rollercoaster of obtaining plants-more ups and downs will come I am sure of it. I am pleased to report that Paramount came up trumps with 36 x 3 litre Santolinas, which are now in our tiny back garden. To try and create large (10 litre sized) ‘cushions’ I have forced 3 x 3litre plants into 10 litre pots, with plants facing slightly inwards with the aim to avoid gaps in the foliage. We shall see how they turn out!

two santolinas
Santolina chamaecyparissus with bright yellow flowers and Santolina ‘Edward Bowles’ with cream flowers

Unexpected windfalls

‘That ironworker has stopped corresponding’, I am exasperated. Trying to find an arch wide enough to span the daybed to serve as a canopy had been impossible and so I had been planning to get one made. ‘Look at these-they do an extra wide arch’ my husband sensing the proximity to meltdown had found a 2m wide gothic arch from Agriframes [Agriframes]. ‘Good I say, struggling to hide the annoyance that I had missed this when I was searching. ‘I’ll order one at the weekend’. Friday evening I look to check they are really the right thing, there is a 50% sale- and the arch is there with 50% off! I click buy- kerching, the little beauty (or not so little!) is in the basket.

Another lovely surprise arrived in my email box after ordering the lily bowl from Urbis Design [Urbis Design]. They were going to give me a discount- I open the pdf of the invoice-wow! A very generous discount has been applied. I thank them sincerely. The biggest ‘tale of the unexpected’ happened a couple of weeks ago with an email from University of Liverpool Ness gardens [Ness Gardens] to say they would like to hear more about the show garden, could I meet them for coffee? I had contacted them in January to tell them about the garden and wondering whether they would like to contribute something since I have been an employee of the university for >20 years and wanted the name to be part of the show garden. I went along and ‘pitched’ to the director and the head of plant collections, and last week they offered a generous contribution towards the plant costs! For me, the exciting thing was that they must have liked the design and the whole wellbeing theme. I have ‘lecture captured’ my talk for them so they can play it at Ness – hope they still think I’m a good investment after that.

Lily bowl
Lily bowl in ‘rust’ finish by Urbis Design

Evolution of the budget spreadsheet

My Excel sheet for the garden budget evolved weekly, with sums added on and discounts applied. This week I have added a timber bill, paint, screws and two nights in a Travelodge (for the last night of the build and the night before judging day- my nerves will be shot!).

Anyway, at the moment I feel tremendously lucky. Janet Haigh and Steven Jacobson are providing illustrations and a wonderful quilt, Kaffe Fasset [Kaffe Fassett] is donating some of his stunning fabrics, and I have a great landscaper [Richard Gordon] who is doing the build. Let’s hope for a splendid outcome as a big thanks to them for their generosity!

Thank you for reading!

Next time: site visit plus the team

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