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RHS Design and Build students giving back to the community with winning project

by | 01 May 24 | Garden Design, Long Reads, News

RHS Horticultural Practice Diploma Student, Felicity Gray has been named the winner of this year’s RHS design and Build competition.

Felicity Gray made the switch from fashion to horticulture after she “longed to be outside.” © RHS / Megan Taylor

Every year, students on the Level 4 RHS Diploma in Horticultural Practice at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey, put forward a ‘Design and Build’ project. The winning design is then built by the students.

This year’s winner, ‘The Generous Garden’, looks to “give to the community as much as the community gives to it” , says Felicity Gray, the student behind the design.

“There will be many different local groups making use of the space, each with different requirements, and in this way the garden would need to be ‘generous’ in its provision. From there I ran with the idea of ‘generosity’ and how I wanted this to look and feel within the design.”

With a particular focus on how the garden can give back to the community, the design includes “opportunities to learn new gardening skills through allotment style beds.”

Visitors at ShopWise in Sheerwater, where the garden is being built, will be able to plant, grow and take home edible produce from the garden, as well as taking the time to connect with each other through the “sharing of ideas of gardening knowledge.”

Included in the garden will also be “a place to relax and feel at peace amongst beautiful planting, fragrant evergreen shrubs including Sarcococca confusa and Viburnum tinus as well as scented climbers such as Jasmin,” Inclusive of a new gazebo, benches, a work table and log seats for children.

Gray explains her design choices, stating: “The community were looking for a space that had a strong focus on edible growing, bringing people together, sharing of ideas and ornamental planting.”

From this brief, the garden has been designed in two halves to perform many different client requirements simultaneously, explains Gray. “One half has a predominantly edible focus, whilst the other is more ornamental.”

“The ‘Edible Garden’ still has plenty of ornamental planting including Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’, Anemone hupehensis ‘September charm’ and different ferns and grasses so that the space is a really inviting and enticing place to be all year round.”

While “the ornamental ‘Giving Garden’ has two central herb beds that will be laid out in a formal, ornamental, potager style but everything within it will be edible.”

Gray’s design looks to reuse a number of the features already at the site, including existing planters, to be painted dusty pink, wooden benches painted “cornflower blue”, as well as the inclusion of already established plants throughout the site.

Use of colour and texture are no strangers to Gray, as before she started designing gardens, she was designing clothes.

“I loved fashion and had always wanted to be a fashion designer, but after several years designing, I realised I struggled far too much being sat at a desk all day and longed to be outside.”

Of all the projects she has been assigned since joining, Gray admits this one has been “the most enjoyable” as she looks forward to building the garden this coming June with the rest of her cohort.

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