It’s so wonderful to see how plants and gardens can bring people together. Garden designer, David Neale designed and built the Silent Pool Gin Garden, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019. This urban garden celebrates the transformative power of plants, demonstrating how even a small, awkwardly shaped garden, in the centre of town, can be an oasis of calm; a place where city dwellers can relax and unwind. This conceptual garden was designed to bestow a feeling of uplifting joy to visitors, as they enter the garden. The Silent Pool Gin Garden is a place where its owners can relax after work, where they can enjoy the sense of calm and inner peace that plants give us, as we watch plants grow and enjoy their flowers, fragrances, and beauty.
Garden designer, David Neale, has used corrugated iron, from a Surrey field, to form the boundaries of the Silent Pool Gin Garden. The garden features a hammered copper rill and hammered copper raised beds, which were designed and handmade by David. Water appears from under the boulders, at the front of the garden; the rill runs down the steps, taking the water into the garden. There’s a 3m (10ft) long water wall, which is beautifully engraved with Silent Pool’s logo; this feature adds interest and the calming sound of water to the garden.
Van Arnhem Nursery, in Godalming, sourced and grew the shrubs for the Silent Pool Gin Garden. While Rosy Hardy, from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, grew the perennial plants, at her nursery, in Freefolk, in Hampshire. The Silent Pool Gin Garden featured a new foxglove – Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’. This special foxglove hybrid was awarded second place in the prestigious RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year Competition.
The Silent Pool Gin Garden is so much more than just a pretty garden, it’s packed full of ideas and innovations. Silent Pool’s garden has brought together Surrey’s award-winning garden designer, David Neale, Surrey academics: Professor Richard Murphy, Professor Tony Myatt, and their students from Surrey University, to celebrate the Surrey Hills, in the Silent Pool Gin Garden.
Surrey University’s Head of Music and Media, Professor Tony Myatt, has designed a new soundscape especially for the Silent Pool Gin Garden. The sounds of birds and insects were recorded in the tranquil Surrey Hills countryside. These sounds were banked and speakers and sensors were hidden around the garden. The Sensors are triggered by the wind, air movement, and the temperature, in the Silent Pool Gin Garden, to trigger which recordings to play. This enables the garden to be the conductor of its own orchestra, playing the Surrey Hills’ sounds of nature. The sound varies and undulates as it is emitted from different areas of the garden, just as it does in nature, giving a very natural feel to the soundscape.
This isn’t the only innovate feature of the garden. Underneath the Iris plantings in the Silent Pool Gin Garden, plant microbial fuel cells are generating electricity, which is used to illuminate a small set of lights. This power isn’t achieved using batteries, it’s the living plants in the soil that are generating the electricity, using a product developed by Plant-e, in the Netherlands. This product extracts plant energy by connecting to plants’ roots. It works particularly well with Iris, grasses, and plants grown in moist soils, with a high percentage of organic matter. As Iris roots are one of the ingredients in Silent Pool gin, it was the perfect product for the garden. Professor Richard Murphy and his students from Surrey University have been working on a project relating to this technology and its use the Silent Pool Gin Garden.
When I met the founders of Silent Pool at Chelsea, they told me that as a company they really care about their local environment and the planet. Silent Pool use lavender grown locally, in Banstead, as an ingredient in their gin and they use solar panels to generate electricity. Local hardwood is the fuel used to heat the Silent Pool Gin still. The company are hoping to become carbon neutral. Students from Surrey University are studying ways that the company can become even more sustainable.
Silent Pool have arranged for some of the plants and elements from the Silent Pool Gin Garden to be donated to Cherry Trees – a charity in Clandon that provide specialist short breaks and care for over 100 children and young people with learning, sensory, and physical impairments. This local charity offers a home-from-home environment, for children aged from 0-19 years of age. Cherry Trees’ enclosed sensory garden has now been improved with flowering and scented plants from the Silent Pool Gin Garden.
When I first interviewed David Neale back in 2015, he was hoping to design and build a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Much has changed over the past four years, David has designed and built two gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show, winning two Silver-Gilt Medals – one in 2018, another in 2019, and the People’s Choice Award, for the Space to Grow Garden category, in 2018. It has been lovely to celebrate his success.
This article was first published in the August 2019 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
Other articles that may interest you……………..
To read about the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden that was inspired by the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, that Mark Gregory designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.
To read about the fragrances of the new roses launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.
To see photographs of the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year Competition, please click here.
To see photographs of the Silent Pool Gin Garden 2018, which David Neale designed and built for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, please click here.
To see all of my articles that feature David Neale, please click here.
To find out about gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire, and West Sussex, please click here.
To see an overview of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, please click here.