8 February 2021

Students help restore abandoned rock garden at Broomhill Library

Blooms, as well as books, await visitors to Broomhill Library in Sheffield, thanks to the restoration of a long-abandoned rock garden and the work of students from the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Josh Stone plants shrubs at Broomhill Library, Sheffield, ©Broomhill Community Library
Second year BA Landscape Architecture student Josh Stone gets stuck into planting at the garden in Broomhill © Broomhill Community Library

Nea Weston, Josh Stone and Sophie Mansell have been working with the Broomhill Community Library group to plant around 400 new shrubs, flowers and bulbs in the Percy Cane Garden, a historically significant site at the entrance to the library.

First laid out 90 years ago, the garden had, over the years, become engulfed in a mass of vegetation, self-sown trees and weeds. Its restoration marks the culmination of an 18-month long project to reclaim the garden for the community.

Students were encouraged to get involved with the project by Department of Landscape Architecture Teacher Sally O’Halloran and enjoyed the opportunity to see first-hand how planting design on the page translates to the ground.

Second year BA Landscape Architecture student, Josh Stone said: “I got involved when Sally sent everyone in the department the opportunity to help out. It helped me see what happens on the other side of the drawing desk.”

“Plants fit differently on paper than they do in the actual site so it was really useful from that perspective. It was also really fun to chat to the people of the community and learn about the history of the library and the people it's provided for." 

Nea Weston and Sophie Mansell planting perennials at Broomhill Library © Broomhill Community Library
Nea Weston and MLA student Sophie Mansell setting out plants in the historic rock garden © Broomhill Community Library

Nea Weston, second year BSc Landscape Architecture student, added: “it opened my eyes to the difficulties of putting a plan into the ground. We were meant to plant three Acers that simply couldn't go where planned, as the large stones from the original rock garden design meant the soil was too shallow.”

“Planting following a planting plan at the library has also helped me make my own plan on CAD, for my planting design module. I now recognise what it is like to follow one.”

The volunteers, who also included members of the Sheffield Conservation Volunteers, retired neighbours and local families, completed the planting - in socially-distanced groups of six - just before the second national lockdown kicked in.

Jill Sinclair, garden historian for the project said: “Nea, Josh and Sophie were an enormous asset in the preparation and planting of the garden - I don’t think we would have finished without them and we are delighted with how it has turned out.”

It helped me see what happens on the other side of the drawing desk. Plants fit differently on paper than they do in the actual site, so it was really useful from that perspective.

Josh Stone

BA Landscape Architecture

The garden work, which has received funding from the Pocket Parks Plus initiative and the Yorkshire Gardens Trust, is part of a bigger project to transform the library into a ‘community hub’ for Broomhill and its neighbouring wards.

Jill added: “it was splendid to have financial support from Yorkshire Gardens Trust as we chose our plants. Sadly, we did not have any information about how Cane originally planted this area. So, working with our landscape architects and the local wildlife trust, we have selected plants that he typically used in this kind of design, supplemented by some specifically chosen to attract lots of wildlife. We want this to be a beautiful place for people to enjoy.”

The library volunteers hope to organise a launch event in June 2021, to officially introduce the new garden to the community.

Nea added: “the community library and garden will be such a great space, and it feels quite special to be a part of it. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to going back there and seeing the transformation!”

Read about the background to the Percy Cane Garden restoration project