KNEPP ESTATE & GARDENS (WEST GRINSTEAD, UK)
The new garden project at Knepp extends the successful wider Knepp Wildland project that offers solutions for soil restoration, flood mitigation, water and air purification, pollinating insects, and carbon sequestration.
But can a complex mosaic of habitats be achieved in an outdoor space that is mostly considered as an extension of our homes? The experiment within Knepp’s walled garden is a process of changing the conventional gardening mindset.
The Kitchen Garden shows how to create ecological complexity from existing structures. Here the focus is on soil-productivity for sustainable fruit, salads, and vegetables. Gravel paths are now carpeted with drought-tolerant herbs.
The larger Rewilded Garden is more experimental. Tons of crushed building waste materials were dumped on the former croquet lawn. The varying soil conditions and distinct aspects favour widely various plant communities. 900 species were planted here, chosen with global warming and sustainability in mind, for their ability to thrive with minimum water and fertility. The gardener’s role initially is to give the plants their chance to establish. This means keeping an eye on the plants that dominate and, if necessary, thinning them out. But once the stage is set, native plants are allowed to seed themselves and add to the complexity. As much as possible, it is about accepting the winners and losers, and embracing an open-ended, constantly evolving garden kaleidoscope.
Project design and consultancy: Charlie Harpur, Tom Stuart-Smith, James Hitchmough, Jekka McVicar
Photo: Charlie Harpur