Camellia scoops Silver-Gilt for sustainable border at RHS Tatton Park

The MA Landscape Architecture student’s border showcased ideas for small-scale, sustainable practices.

MA Landscape Architecture student Camellia Hayes by her Silver-Gilt winning border

MA Landscape Architecture student, Camellia Hayes has won a Silver-Gilt medal at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, for The Healing Garden; a green border designed to nurture people and the environment.

Her 3x3m design, featuring naturalistic planting and a rain garden, was one of ten Greener Borders, showcasing planet-friendly gardening ideas to visitors.

Camellia, who will begin the second year of her masters degree in September 2022, spoke to us about the competition process, as well as how her experience so far on MA Landscape Architecture helped to propel her to success.

Congratulations on your Silver Gilt medal for the Healing Garden! How are you feeling and what does this award mean to you?

Thank you! I’m thrilled to have received Silver-Gilt at my first flower show. Whilst I was the lead designer, my mum, Alison and sister, Rosalie, project managed the border, so it means everything to share this achievement with them.

MA Landscape Architecture student Camellia Hayes by her Silver-Gilt winning border

Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind your design and how you realised this through your soft and hard materials?

The Healing Garden is a restorative space celebrating small-scale sustainable practices to nurture both people and the environment. In the border are two key sustainable elements: naturalistic planting and a rain garden.

The naturalistic planting is biodiverse due to the high density and diversity of plant species, including climate resistant and nectar and pollen rich Verbena bonariensis, and native plant Succisa pratensis; a larval foodplant for the marsh fritillary. An important aspect of naturalistic planting is that it is low maintenance, needing little weeding and cutting back only in March, therefore the planting can be enjoyed through to winter when the striking skeleton shapes appear.

In one corner of the border, is a reused cattle water trough acting as a rain garden container. A rain garden is a sustainable water management strategy that reduces surface water flooding, by capturing rainwater run-off and using plants to filter out some pollutants.

Whatever the size of a garden or yard, we hope to show that people can still achieve a rain garden by disconnecting a drainpipe and placing plants, which will survive the changeable soil conditions, in a water trough. 

Alongside the sustainable elements, the border has been designed to improve mental health. The naturalistic planting helps to create a semi-private seating area, surrounded by calming colours, which reduces anxiety whilst encouraging a connectedness to nature.

I wouldn’t have been able to achieve RHS Silver-Gilt without the University of Sheffield’s MA Landscape Architecture course

Camellia Hayes

Naturalistic planting in the Healing Garden by Camellia Hayes

What inspired you to apply for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park?

It wasn’t long into my masters that I learnt about planting design and developed a love for researching plant species and hand-drawing planting plans. Therefore, when I saw they were looking for greener border designs I jumped at the opportunity, as I knew it would be an exciting chance to bring one of my designs to life and truly understand how my chosen plants weave together.

How has the knowledge you have gained so far during your degree helped you with the design, planning and build for RHS Flower Show Tatton Park?

I wouldn’t have been able to achieve RHS Silver-Gilt without the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture’s masters course.

The concepts underlying my greener border were formed during the first year of my masters. For instance, Nigel Dunnett’s lecture series and book Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide gave me a strong foundation in naturalistic planting and rain garden design.

The department’s Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project inspired me to explore the relationship between planting and mental health further.

Through the department I have received invaluable practical and technical advice. I’ve also met incredible people, including my tutor Catherine Higham who introduced to me to a bigger and more sustainable way of thinking, and Thom White who taught me how to build the gravel path from wood pallets.

The Healing Garden by Camellia Hayes

Did you receive any financial or practical help from the Department?

I was really fortunate to received financial support from the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, through their student bursary scheme. By having this financial help, I was able to liaise with Bernhard’s Nurseries Ltd who grew my plants for the show.

Were there any unexpected challenges during the build and how did you overcome these?

Receiving a text that the marquee, which was shielding my plants from the 38-degree heat, had blown over was a hairy moment! I will never forget the drive back to Tatton Park, where I held my breath hoping that I wouldn’t find my border completely flattened.

Fortunately, with some luck and kindness from the other designers the marquee had been intercepted and taken down before any plants were harmed. All this happened less than 24 hours before judging, so we were very relieved that the Healing Garden survived, unscathed from either the heat or wind!

MA Landscape Architecture student Camellia Hayes with her Silver-Gilt medal

What was your personal highlight of the experience?

The main highlight must be speaking to so many like-minded minded people and designers that I admire. Throughout the build other Tatton designers came up to us to speak about the Healing Garden’s design. Having experts in their field appreciate the wilder naturalistic planting and immediately understand the rain garden concept was really validating and excites me for the future.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It is important to us that the Healing Garden has a life beyond the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, therefore we are really pleased that some of the planting has been rehomed to two charities – the Defence gardens Scheme and The Brick charity - where the border will continue to make a positive impact.