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Traditional Hebridean plants in Chelsea Flower Show garden         21/4/13

Wild plants and crops used on a traditional Hebridean croft in the first half of last century are the theme for a garden design for this year’s prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Nottingham Trent University student Jackie Setchfield’s idea has been selected as one of just four gardens to go forward to the popular artisan section of the centenary show, which takes place next month.

Students from across the university’s horticulture courses are helping to develop the ‘Motor Neurone Disease – A Hebridean Weaver’s Garden’ with Jackie, who is studying a foundation degree in garden design.

Her design depicts a “garden” on the Isle of Lewis, brimming with dye plants, the extracts of which would have been used to dye fleece, and woven to create the famous Harris Tweed cloth.

Traditionally, plants used by a crofter’s family would be source in their natural wild habitat on the croft, over the moor, in bogs, by streams or on cliff tops.

The garden is intended to be a nostalgic look back to an arduous way of life within these tight knit communities, which continued in the Hebrides until the late 1960s.

As well as a black house structure it will include a spinning wheel, dye pot and a range of dye plants available in the middle of the last century – including ladies bedstraw, bog myrtle, bogbean and knapweed.

There will be a stream with small waterfalls, along with wetland plants, wildflowers such as harebell, foxgloves and tufted vetch, as well as heathers, ferns, a tree and a small kitchen garden growing potatoes, onions and cabbages.

The students – along with university environment technician Paul Wright – are helping to cultivate specialist plants and flowers and construct various features of the garden ahead of the show.

The brief for the garden was provided by Motor Neurone Disease Association co-founder, Martin Anderson and it is being created to help raise awareness of the charity.

Martin also worked alongside the university five years ago, when his Shetland-inspired show garden won the coveted gold award and the People’s Choice Award at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Jackie said: "It’s been a real privilege to be involved in this project and I can't wait to finally see the garden in place at the Chelsea Flower Show.

"The most challenging aspect of the project has probably been the meticulous research and planning which has gone into this. I have been honoured to have the assistance of all sorts of people eager to help, from the charismatic curator of the Arnol blackhouse museum on Lewis, the staff at the Harris Tweed mills, to the esteemed librarians at RHS Wisley.

"I have visited the Isle of Lewis to source some of the plants, garden features and materials included in the design to ensure that it is as authentic as possible. It was also vital to feel the atmosphere of the islands themselves, to capture their wild romantic spirit and translate that essence into the build."

Caroline Wright, a senior lecturer in horticulture at Nottingham Trent University, said: "The show garden has provided Jackie and other students with a wealth of challenges and skills development, as well as an exciting opportunity to participate in one of the world’s leading horticultural competitions.

“We have been very busy constructing a mock-up of the garden to ensure that everything will fit together and work out during the build at Chelsea.

"Sourcing some of the wild flowers and rare plants, mosses and lichens has been very difficult. We now have to make sure they are in flower and looking their best for the show. The next few weeks will be crucial in bringing everything on to the right stage of growth."