A Rewilding Britain Landscape’ Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2022

First-time designers Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt are bringing their A Rewilding Britain Landscape Show Garden to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022. They will use native British plants to showcase a naturally rewilded landscape, designed to inspire all those with an interest in eco-forward gardening.

The reintroduction of beavers in South West England – a mammal once lost to the British landscape and now being reintroduced after 400 years of extinction – is their inspiration. These busy creatures take centre stage in the garden design. Branches used in the scheme even bear real teeth marks from some of the reintroduced beavers, Adam told Country Living.

The garden features a beaver hide and dam that have been constructed using genuine tree debris removed from the reintroduction site as part of the local beaver management process. Evidence of the animals’ food and dam supplies – wood sticks and wood chip – will be scattered around the space to replicate their habitat.

chelsea flower show 2022 show garden a rewilding britain landscape, designed by adam hunt and lulu urguhart

Troy HarrisonGetty Images

Passionate eco-gardeners, Lulu and Adam are working in partnership with the charity Rewilding Britain, an organisation aiming to tackle climate change and save our native plants and animals from climate-related loss.

Design features: A Rewilding Britain Landscape Chelsea Show Garden

  • Beaver lodge and dam, made from sticks gnawed by beavers
  • Stream flowing through the garden, forming tributaries below the dam
  • Beaver-watching hide
  • Hand-built West Country-style stone wall
  • Trees include hawthorn, alder and white willow
  • Devil’s bit scabious food source for the caterpillars of the marsh fritillary butterfly
  • Planting includes guelder rose, greater tussock sedge, marsh valerian, marsh helleborine and marsh thistle

    The garden is clever in the way it brings the countryside to life in the middle of London and showcases the beavers’ role as ecosystem engineers.

    A brook flows through a copse of hawthorn, hazel and field maples, and then down over a winding old West Country stone wall. Below the wall, a family of beavers have – or so it would appear – built a dam and pool with a lodge behind.

    Rivulets of water trickle through the dam and spread through a riparian wetland meadow where rejuvenating alders, goat and crack willow grow. An old timber walkway, made from reclaimed oak planks and chestnut poles, and inspired by the Neolithic Sweet Track from the Somerset levels, leads across this wetland meadow to a natural resting spot at the side of the pool.

    Beneath the walkway and throughout the space, native wildflowers mingle with grasses, whilst marginal plants throng the edge of the pool and streams.

    chelsea flower show 2022 show garden a rewilding britain landscape, designed by adam hunt and lulu urguhart

    Troy HarrisonGetty Images

    About 3,600 native plants are being grown for the garden, including 10 trees such as alder and willow. In order to present as authentic a picture of a rewilded landscape as possible, the grasses will be shown as if in the wild, with their previous year’s growth and pre-season seed-head remnants left on, together with last year’s dead foliage.

    Lulu and Adam shared their ambition with us: “We hope the inspiration of the garden brings a deep sense of hope to young and old, in our role as the restorer species.”

    Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s chief executive, said in a press announcement: “For the first time at Chelsea, visitors will be shown the amazing rewilding impact that eco-engineers such as beavers can have on reversing the loss of nature in Britain, and in boosting the beauty and biodiversity of our landscapes.”

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    “We are deeply inspired by the ecosystem regeneration and immense flora and fauna repair of rewilding a landscape,” co-designer Lulu Urquhart told Country Living. “Beavers are a keystone species in this process. Known as ecosystem engineers, their activities create a huge acceleration in habitat creation for other wetland loving fauna and flora. A rewilding landscape can lock-up carbon and help clean polluted water, as well as stimulating species re-establishment. We call it a bio-abundance.”

    “Part of our interest in doing this garden at Chelsea is because we hope to inspire people to support Rewilding Britain, and recognise the work they do in underpinning the regeneration of nature’s ecosystems,” added Adam, when sharing his plans with Country Living.

    “We hope it will bring this through the smaller stories of a much bigger subject; things people find tangible and relatable, such as flourishing insect life through habitat creation, and flourishing water-life through diversifying streams and rivers.”

    What will happen to the garden and plants after RHS Chelsea?

    According to the RHS, key parts of A Rewilding Britain Landscape garden will be used to support two community projects in London and Somerset.

    Who are Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt?

    Adam and Lulu set out on a design partnership adventure almost 15-years-ago. Both are passionate plant-lovers, environmentalists and landscape designers, so establishing Urquhart & Hunt Landscape Design Studio was a natural way for them to explore these interests together. They have studios in Bruton, Somerset and Cork, Ireland.

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    Adam and Lulu share a passion for geometry, traditional plant-lore, sacred spaces and rewilding, of course. They have recently been working on the redesign of a mosque garden in Cambridge, inspired by traditional Islamic planting schemes.

    Lulu has an MA (Hons) in Comparative Religion from Edinburgh University and is a practising geomancer and land healer. Her passions include earth energies and plant ecology. Adam is a landscape designer and architect, one of the founding members of the Trees for London (now Trees for Cities) movement and The Walled Kitchen Garden Network.

    The duo work in collaboration with leading eco-friendly experts and are known in the garden design industry for putting sustainable practice and the land above all else.

    Their style is naturalistic, romantic and free with special consideration given to plant associations and careful use of natural materials, says their website, always taking into account local landscape and vernacular. Much of their work is done on large country estates (including at Babington House, the private members club in Somerset), but they do undertake small and town gardens, such as recent townhouse project for Matches Fashion, featuring enormous ferns and gunnera in a limited patio space.

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