How the meadow garden became widespread
There is no cement that is harmful to the environment; the platform is made from recycled wooden mats used to support the legs of large cranes, while the tank’s liner is made from recycled tires. Even the underground wine cooler is low impact, providing chilled drinks without the need for a refrigerator or electricity.
The plants have been chosen to be successful in the UK’s changing climate and are planted in microclimates for which they are adapted.
Hard and drought tolerant varieties such as grasses, sanguisorba, phlomis, acanthus and salvias honor the banks that avoid the flood and take pride in the water stored afterwards, while the stream bed is home to plants that are not afraid of wet feet and flooding, such as Iris sibirica.
Liberal use of sturdy and reliable trees such as beech, birch and Acer campestre project some shade and create the kind of cool nooks and ferns that will be so desirable for plants and people in the future. And large areas have no plants at all.
“There is nothing wrong with having gaps in a diagram and areas of void,” says Butterworth. “You must be thinking, ‘What would nature do? There is a tendency to plant shoehorn plants in spaces they don’t want to be. Under a low tree where there would normally be mold and debris, people often set up huge ferns; these look great for the series, but in a real world situation they would be dead within a month.
Let nature play
This acceptance of nature and this awareness of interactions within an environment illustrate an important point. Trees capture carbon over a long period of time, while the combination of shade and transpiration creates a cool microclimate.
But their very presence alters the local environment for the better. As the leaves and twigs fall, they are broken down and dragged into the soil by the action of invertebrates, which has the dual effect of capturing carbon underground and creating healthy, aerated soils.
“It’s about understanding natural processes and letting them play,” says Manning. “Air spaces in the soil provide essential oxygen to the roots and space to store water when it rains. The roots can then use it, which saves labor and resources for the gardener. Root depth varies wildly – deeper roots will get more moisture, but they also need well-draining soil to ensure oxygen is available.
Charming and relaxed, Butterworth’s perfectly imperfect garden is intricate yet relevant. An inviting, detailed and enjoyable space that is full of ideas for tackling the challenges that lie ahead, offering thoughtful solutions both to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to work with whatever comes our way. It offers a new perspective, where we can work alongside nature, rather than struggling for outdated ideals that are inaccessible and costly to the environment.
“We hope this will spark conversations and allow members of the public to take key aspects of the garden home, whether it’s a few planting ideas or more important elements of the foundational design,” Butterworth said.
“We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we have to anticipate and plan ahead, learn and adapt. Every day is a school day for a gardener.