Sourcing the boulders was stage one, but the process of constructing the garden boundary – without use of cement or concrete – has taken a lot of work. Initially, Jilayne and Tecwyn explored using a gabion structure to keep the boulders in place. But, as well as hiking up the carbon footprint of the garden, the plan fell through due to uncertainty about the gabions being able to cope with the sheer weight of the boulders, as well as rising costs.
Boulders for the waterfall being positioned. Credit: Stephanie Foote/Fauna & Flora
The daunting question of how we supported the waterfall, using such large boulders, was solved thanks to an innovative Rootlok method that retains the compacted hardcore and soil using soil-filled bags on a stable base, and stacked together with interlocking plates. The Rootlok method has been engineered by GeoGrow Ltd, which is providing the materials and installation of the garden’s retaining wall free of charge.
The Rootlock method: soil-filled bags retain the compacted hardcore and soil, and are stacked together with interlocking plates. Credit: Steph Baker/Fauna & Flora
In addition to the waterfall structure, the rocks provided by CED Stone have also been used to create the garden’s drystone wall, which signifies the boundary that separates the gorillas’ protected forest habitat from the human area. This wall has been created using a traditional construction method – also without cement or concrete – just soil, stone and a little bit of science.
Constructing the drystone wall at the Fauna & Flora Garden. Credit: Steph Baker/Fauna & Flora
Tecwyn Evans, Living Landscapes, comments: “Constructing a garden in the most sustainable way, often does not mean it is the cheapest or easiest way. There has been a lot of trial and error during the creation of this garden to ensure we are covering every area we can to reduce our carbon footprint and waste. All of the small changes can have a huge impact. We hope the Fauna & Flora Garden will be a strong example to gardeners and future Chelsea show gardens of what can be achieved when you make sustainability central to your design and construction.”
The big dramatic features of the garden are one element of its charm. But it wouldn’t be a Chelsea garden without the plants!
From grand banana trees (Musa) to delicate Parochetus ‘Blue Gem’, a wide range of plants are included in the garden and Jilayne has called upon her trusted black book of nurseries and plant experts to find the best options to recreate and represent the gorilla habitat.
Lobelia gibberoa and the Afromontane forest landscape. Credit: Camilla Rhodes / Fauna & Flora
The Eden Project – with its world-famous tropical biomes – has provided many of the plants included in the garden and invaluable horticultural knowledge, working closely with Jilayne her team throughout the project.
EuroPlants UK Ltd has also supplied a large proportion of the plants at trade price and has also helped to collate and store the plants at its nursey.
Jilayne Rickards and Tecwyn Evans in the polytunnel where the plants are being grown at the Eden Project, Cornwall. Credit: Stephanie Foote/Fauna & Flora
Other plant suppliers include Fachjan – which has supplied Ficus lyrata, a real star of the show – as well as Beth Chatto Gardens, Treseder Plants, Cotswold Garden Flowers and Piccolo Plants. All of which have been essential to helping us to bring a slice of Central Africa to Central London.
Planting, of course, would not be possible without the soil, and Boughton has donated all of the dark soil that covers our garden’s planting areas.
After the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, our garden will be relocated to the tropical biome of the Eden Project, where around one million annual visitors can learn from and experience our garden for many years to come.
The Eden Project, Cornwall. Credit: Matt Greenwell/PGB