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Landscape gardener Sarah Eberle talks sustainability and the latest trends

Ahead of the Chelsea Flower Show, we talk to gardener Sarah Eberle about what to expect from this year’s show and the latest in gardening trends

Sarah Eberle has wowed visitors to Royal Horticultural Society shows at Chelsea and at Hampton Court, and her much-loved work has won her eight gold medals, Best in Show and the George Cook award for innovation twice at Hampton Court. We find out more about her esteemed career, and why the future for gardeners looks green.

The Resilience Garden, your garden for Chelsea this year, marks 100 years of the Forestry Commission. Tell us about your approach

While marking 100 years of forestry, the garden also looks ahead to the biggest challenges facing forests of the future, exploring how they can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases. Echoing the designs of Victorian gardener William Robinson, an advocate for forestry, pioneer in experimental planting and visionary in the creation of wild and natural gardens, the garden features exotic alongside native species – specially selected to thrive in habitats that mimic existing and probable effects of climate change. Robinson understood the importance of trees in both the urban and rural landscapes, and experimented with different species on his estate. The legacy of his forward-thinking, natural style of planting and emphasis on the importance of green spaces for our health and wellbeing are very relevant to this garden, as well as our wider society.

Chelsea Flower Show

The garden draws attention to the biggest issues affecting forests, woods and horticulture today. A warmer climate, facilitating the spread of pests and diseases, is putting our forests under pressure. With only a handful of species making up the majority of our woodlands, a single disease can devastate the landscape and ecology of our forests. To help find ways to combat these threats, the Forestry Commission is planting a greater variety of species to ensure our forests and woods are sustainable, productive, and rich in wildlife, both now and in the future.

How we can be more active in protecting our landscapes?

Buy plants from a reputable nursery and preferably plants grown in the UK. Don’t bring plant material back into this country unless via an official channel. Clean tools and boots if you move between gardens. Try and be more pest and disease aware so that you can report suspected problems. This is also reflected in the garden’s design at Chelsea with the aim of informing visitors about the importance of biosecurity, and the threats posed to forests and gardens by pests and diseases. As part of this project we are partnering with Defra to ensure the procurement of different species is a blueprint for a robust methodology for the sector in the future, as we build resilient landscapes for future generations to enjoy.

What do you think is the future of garden design and how it reflects growing environmental concerns?

Sustainability is the key word and respect for nature. We should be designing for cohabitation rather than for the sole use of humans.

chelsea flower show

How did you first get into landscape design?

I trained as a Landscape Architect and planned this since doing my O levels at school. I was hugely inspired by the O level I took in Environmental Studies. It was the only A grade I got!

Can you tell us about some of the highlights that you have done for the Hampton Court Palace show? 

Oh my, So many! I always enjoyed working in the Daily Mail Pavillon at Hampton Court and building the woodland garden there in 2003 was fabulous although it was dauntingly large!

Find out more at saraheberle.co.uk