Gravetye Manor in East Grinstead has joined forces with The Forestry Commission to sponsor an impressive new garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Designed by Sarah Eberle, the Resilience Garden will mark the Forestry Commission’s centenary and feature an unusual mix of exotic and native tree species – some of which were grown by Gravetye’s renowned head gardener, Tom Coward and his team.
It takes inspiration from visionary gardener William Robinson, who plied his trade at the Sussex manor for more than 50 years. A revolutionary of his time, Robinson was an early advocate for forestry and introduced new ideas such as a wild garden. He also experimented with different species of trees.
Upon his death, Robinson left his estate to be utilised for State Forestry. It is now managed by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the William Robinson Gravetye Charity, with the aim of implementing Robinson’s vision for Gravetye estate and its woodlands.
The garden has therefore been cultivated to champion the need for greater age, species and genetic diversity in forests, to ensure that they are resilient to climate change, pests and diseases. Each plant species was specially selected to thrive in habitats that mimic the existing and probable effects of climate change, including warmer, drier summers and wetter winters.
Of particular note are the Ranunculus acris Stevenii, Echium Russicum and a selection of Californian poppies such as Copper Pot, Copper Swirl and Red Chief, which were all developed on the Gravetye Estate in Sussex.
The Araucaria araucana, more commonly known as monkey puzzle, will also be included alongside Gingko biloba, a ‘dinosaur’ species that was found in fossils dating back millions of years to the early Jurassic period.
Gardening enthusiasts will also spot tree species known for producing timber such as Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), considered an ornamental conifer but identified as a potential source of fast-growing timber.
“It was a true pleasure to contribute to this special project,” Tom says. “Robinson was bold and experimental, and we could do worse than looking to him for a little inspiration. With more than 1,000 acres of beautiful British countryside at the Gravetye Estate, we are committed to doing our part to sustain our country’s natural heritage and to help the environment flourish despite any climate challenges.”
It is a project initiated by the William Robinson Gravetye Charity and is sponsored by Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant, after a recent restoration of the William Robinson garden. The Kingscote Estate, Forestry Commission and the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew have also sponsored the initiative, while DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are project partners.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 takes place from 21st to 25th May. The William Robinson garden is open to visit at Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant.