The breathtakingly beautiful Atlantic coast of north west Spain will be brought to life in a show garden collaboration between the Spanish Tourist Office, Turismo de Galicia and designer Rose McMonigall at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July.
The garden will evoke, on a small scale, the extraordinary landscape of the Rías De Galicia, the estuaries on the rugged Galician coast. Here, surrounded by uncrowded white beaches and turquoise waters, a series of large rivers meet the Atlantic, an area which in times past was believed to be the End of the Earth.
Secluded coves are dotted throughout this region and, in her third RHS Hampton garden for the Spanish Tourist Office, named ‘Rías de Galicia: A Garden at the End of the Earth’, Rose will be celebrating these coastal havens, their wild flora and the local tradition of shell-cladding. The garden will also give a nod to the delicious local seafood.
Visitors will be transported to a small cove, sheltered by two coastal pine trees. A path winds up from the beach, past a crumbling sea wall, through a selection of salt-resistant shrubs, rock plants and flowering grasses, to a weather-beaten fisherman’s cottage. Traditional Galician cooking pots act as plant containers filled with bay and geranium, and a pantiled roof is weighed down with stones to protect it from the Atlantic gales. A rock pool nestles in the boulders filled with colourful pebbles and shells. In the shallows, a small fishing boat is beached, ready for its next trip out to harvest the rich abundance of seafood of the Rías De Galicia.
The garden’s backdrop will depict distant hazy mountains of Finisterre using a panelled art installation filled with scallop shells to form an impressionist collage. Historically, the walls of buildings in the region were often clad in porous scallop shells to reduce humidity inside. The scallop shell is the sacred icon of the pilgrims on the nearby Camino to Santiago de Compostela and is the symbol of St James himself.
Shells will be scattered on the beach and traditional mussel baskets, nets and Galician lobster pots will be in the boat and undergrowth.
Although the garden will evoke the spirit and romantic beauty of Galicia, it will use plants which can be easily bought in the UK, so ideal for show-goers to use in their own outdoor spaces, particularly those with extremely free-draining soil or who live in exposed sites or near the sea. Succulents such as sedums (stonecrop), saxifrage (rockfoils) and sempervivum (houseleeks) will feature with eryngium (sea hollies), armeria maritima (sea thrifts), stipa (grasses), plus rosemary, thymes, fennels, tansy and tamarisk. Many plants growing in Galicia also thrive quite happily in sheltered parts of the UK.
Designer Rose McMonigall said: “Falling at the brink of the summer holidays, I always think RHS Hampton Court has a happy atmosphere, vibrant with colour and thoughts of long, lazy days outside. I’m so excited to be creating a garden which paints a picture of an idyllic scene, a secluded beach on the Atlantic coast of Galicia, glimpsed through pine trees, with the ultimate hideaway of a fisherman’s cottage nestled amid the wild-looking vegetation.
“I’ve aimed to create a garden rich in atmosphere but using a palette of plants that can be used in any garden, especially with sandy, rocky or coastal conditions – an Impressionist memory of happy seaside holidays in your own special space at home.”
Javier Piñanes, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK, said: “In collaboration with the region of Galicia, we are delighted to be collaborating with RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and garden designer Rose McMonigall this year. Galicia is a very unique, spiritual and cultural destination with an outstanding coastline strung with dramatic cliffs and pretty fishing ports. The interior offers a labyrinth of valleys and hills and is one of Spain’s most green and vibrant regions. We are excited to be bringing a slice of Galicia to London this year and look forward to showcasing some of the highlights at the Flower Show.”