RHS Hampton Court – Crest Nicholson Livewell Garden

Matt Golding
June 13, 2019
  • Hampton Court 1

  • Hampton Court 2

  • Hampton Court 3

  • Hampton Court 4

  • Hampton Court 5

  • Hampton Court 6

  • Hampton Court 7

  • Hampton Court 8

  • Hampton Court 9

  • Hampton Court 10

  • Hampton Court 11

  • Hampton Court 12

  • Hampton Court 13

  • Hampton Court 14

  • Hampton Court 15

  • Hampton Court 16

  • Hampton Court 17

In summer 2018 DJA was approached by a long-standing client Crest Nicholson, with a request to design a Show Garden entry for the 2019 Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. The garden was to showcase Crest Nicholson's approach to placemaking and building communities and to stem from the LiveWELL initiative promoting healthy living (by Essex CC and Chelmsford CC).

The concept was to address the individual topics of the LiveWELL campaign.  The design team, lead by Aleksandra, designed a community wellbeing garden where different ages can interact and be active but also offer a quiet moment of contemplation. The garden is to be rebuilt in the Client’s development Charter Park in Chelmsford after the Show and is to be built in cooperation with Writtle College who are near neighbours to the development.

The concept proved successful with the RHS Selection Panel and in the early 2019 we were allocated plot HC465 of just 116m2 and started our adventure in the world of Show Garden Design!

After Spring spent selecting manufacturers and nurseries to work with, fine-tuning the details, managing budgets, selecting plants, organising PR… we finally arrived on site at Hampton Court Palace on the 12th of June.

Our Contractor Bespoke Outdoor Spaces, together with tutors and students from Writtle College, and Aleksandra from DJA, spent 19 intense days of construction, setting out, excavating, laying foundations, building walls, installing furniture, laying surfacing and planting.

The garden won a RHS Silver Medal and proved very popular with the Festival visitors who were allowed to come in and experience the space from the point of view of the user, be it relaxing in contemplation area or having a go pushing cube seats around. It was extremely rewarding to hear and see that general public felt we had succeeded in delivering the brief!

The garden planting was donated to Broomfield Hospital’s Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford, a Primary School in Chelmsford and Wayward plant reuse scheme operating in partnership with RHS Shows and supporting various school and community projects across London. The furniture and hard landscape elements are in storage awaiting the site becoming ready for reinstallation.

The Livewell campaign

The livewell campaign is designed to engage communities, families and individuals with the aim of providing information about all that is on offer in Essex to improve health and wellbeing. There is a real need to collectively find solutions that contribute towards wellbeing in order to reduce the cost of health and social care. All Essex Local Authorities and our partners have come together to collaborate on the health and wellbeing agenda and work towards achieving better health outcomes for people across Essex.

The Campaign identifies six themes that will be used to deliver the health and wellbeing programme:

  • startwell – Giving children the best start in life
  • staywell – Clinical wellbeing, a state of health.
  • feelwell – focus on mental wellbeing.
  • eatwell – raising awareness of healthy eating.
  • bewell – focus on promoting physical activity and spending time outdoors.
  • agewell – for our elderly population to be more active during their retirement years.

Design details

One challenge of designing a public space rather than a private garden is to address the needs of a community and not individuals, providing accessible, safe, stimulating space suitable for as many users as possible. From the aims of the LiveWELL campaign it became apparent that bridging between generations and tackling the problem of social exclusion and loneliness will be the key design objectives. We set about creating a space for community but welcoming individuals.

The garden has therefore two areas; one for community interaction and a slightly separated one for quiet contemplation. The community space was to bring neighbours of all ages and abilities together in a relaxing, stimulating environment to build community feeling. The quieter, secluded space was to encourage reflection, contemplation of surroundings, and connection with nature.

The INTERACTION AREA needed an activity that would draw people (range of generations) in and inspire interaction. We had many ideas but felt that any one of them would be too prescriptive and limit the usability of the space and ultimately the number of its users. In the end we decided to provide a space that can be re-arranged to suit a variety of activities. The moveable seats became the interactive, playful element instigating the interaction and allowing the space to be changed to host a range of events, for example:

  • pulling seats together to create classroom / auditorium (focussed on the bench which can form the backdrop to a ‘stage’) for book clubs readings / discussions, storytelling, toddler rhyme time sessions, etc.;
  • arranging for table games like chess or chequers with playing boards etched into the surface of some seats;
  • pulling apart to create groups or single seats for individual use.

The CONTEMPLATION AREA has been located in the sunniest spot of the garden and immersed in a mini sensory garden, with planting stimulating senses with scents, colours and movement and encouraging wildlife and water feature reflecting sky and providing gentle trickling sound.

To connect the two areas and create a coherent garden we used the curved, flowing lines throughout. There are curved seats embraced by curved pergolas and sinuous water ‘rill’ and tracks guiding the moveable seat that bind the garden.

The planting palette was chosen with psychology of colours in mind.  We used rich green-bronze structural planting with hints of fresh white as an envelope to the whole garden to aid relaxation, calmness, provide feelings of safety and balance (green: Choisya sp., Pittosporum tenuifolium, fern Polystichum settiferum, wild strawberry Fragaria vesca, bronze: young foliage of Amelanchier lamarckii, Rodgersia pinnata, Heuchera sp., white – Rosa ‘Desdemona’, Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’).

The flowering plants in the contemplation area are chosen to form a palette of blues (the  psychological effect of which is said to be soothing, aiding introspection, concentration, rest…) and purples (for increasing vitality and energy). Species include: Lavandula angustifolia, Rosmarinus officinalis, Satureja montana, Hyssopus, Salvia nemorosa, Verbena bonariensis.  We have also added few pops of orange for added warmth, stimulating happiness and helping overcome depression (Achillea ‘Terracotta’, Rosa ‘Roald Dahl’).

The garden also addresses the ‘eating well’ theme of LiveWELL therefore features a variety of edibles throughout. These are seamlessly incorporated in the planting so that they do not stand out as a growing plot, demonstrating that the wish to have beautiful, ornamental garden doesn’t limit possibility to grow your own. We hoped to introduce to wider public species not traditionally perceived as edibles.

Planting includes trees with edible fruits (Service berry - Amelanchier lamarckii, crab apple - Malus sp.), ornamental shrubs bearing edible fruit (Japanese quince - Chaenomeles sp., gooseberry - Ribes sp., honeyberry – Lonicera caerulea), nut producing Corylus avellana ‘Purpurea’, grape vines, ground covering wild strawberry and creeping raspberries and a huge range of fragrant, beautiful herbs.

The sensory planting in the Contemplation Area of the park includes huge array of flowering, nectar rich species attractive to pollinators and providing a source of food for a prolonged period. There are also plenty of other flowering species throughout the garden (with early flowering Amelanchier sp. and Chaenomeles sp.). Having included many berry bearing species, we anticipate the park will also be attractive to birds and insects when installed in the permanent location.

With thanks to our suppliers