When previous Chelsea Gold Medal winning garden designer Gary Breeze needed wildlife gardening experts to design the planting for his 2017 Chelsea garden, he looked no further than Natural Gardens and our sister company Wild Ponds. His instinct was rewarded by the judges with a prestigious Gold Medal, with TV presenter Monty Don praising the “attention to detail” of the planting.

The Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden is sponsored by the International Boatbuilding Training College, in the Artisan Gardens category. The garden centres on a three quarter-size replica of a 900 year-old oak boat under construction, surrounded by Norfolk reedbeds and water plants.

To produce the look of a natural habitat we decided to grow the reedbed in sections, allowing the native plants to develop together over some months. The sections were then linked together on site to form an entirely realistic reedbed. Complementary planting includes Broadland specialist plants such as water soldier (host of the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly larvae) and milk parsley (for Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars).

Where possible, we also recycled surplus native plants from local sources. Among these, Ryburgh Wildlife Group provided waterside vegetation, following necessary annual clearance of its open water wader scrape, and Stibbard Primary School donated surplus water soldier from its wildlife pond. Native willows were rescued following ditch clearance by a local farmer. Friends also gave surplus native water plants from their own ponds.

As Barley says, “Not only is it personally very satisfying to have achieved one of gardening’s professional pinnacles of a Chelsea Gold, it is equally rewarding to have involved the local community in the garden’s creation. I understand that children from the local primary school are excited at having been part of it and this can only interest them more in wildlife.”

The garden also received BBC gardening presenter Monty Don’s seal of approval. “The celebration and attention to craftsmanship, the planting around it, reflects the Norfolk Broads where the boat was found,” he said during Tuesday evening’s TV coverage. “The attention to detail, the way the orchids are put in the grass, the moorhen nest in the corner, the way the water is set – everything is a celebration of craftsmanship.”

Monty Don praises the Chelsea Garden (courtesy BBC):