Octavia Hill Garden designed by Ann-Marie Powell

A garden designed to emphasise the importance of urban communities and universal access to nature for physical and mental health.

credit: Ann-Marie Powell Gardens

Octavia Hill (1838-1912) was one of the founders of the National Trust. Hill believed that “the healthy gift of air and the joy of plants and flowers” were vital in everyone’s life and she worked tirelessly to improve urban housing and protect green space. Yet today, she is little known, and one in three people in Britain still don’t have access to nearby nature-rich spaces.

Sponsored by Blue Diamond and the National Trust, the multi-award winning garden designer Ann-Marie Powell has designed the RHS Chelsea Show garden to celebrate the life and work of the pioneering social reformer. The garden was designed to increases urban-biodiversity and encourage visitors to feel part of nature by making intimate connections with plants and wildlife.

According to Powell, their design approach is a showcase for sustainability and climate change resilience, with peat-free plants, reclaimed materials and low-carbon build techniques.

“We want to show that urban brownfield sites can be reclaimed to create beautiful, biodiverse spaces with huge wellbeing benefits. Our garden is imagined to be located on an urban brownfield site. This beautiful, gardened, plant-filled urban community wildlife garden is designed to stimulate physical, mental, and social well-being”, explains Powell.

The Design

The garden is built as a series of rooms, where visitors can experience different views and atmospheres. Sloping level changes with wheelchair accessible paths, lead visitors to a planted shade canopy, observation platform, wildlife pond and stream surrounded by pollinator-friendly planting.

A garden structure, integrating seamlessly into the garden serves as the focal point. The contemporary wildlife pond and walkable stream add to the habitats of the garden, and fills the space with the calming sound of running water. Bird boxes in the trees, trail through the space and a hand carved oak retaining wall with habitat panels provide homes for wildlife. A soundscape intertwines with the undulating rhythms of the garden enhancing connections with the garden for visually impaired visitors.

The Garden will be built by the Landscape Consultants and after the show, relocated to Bridgemere Show Gardens, Nantwich, Cheshire.