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Breaking Ground Garden

By Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio. Wellington College, one of the world’s leading co-educational independent schools, returns to the celebrated horticultural show with its second garden ‘Breaking Ground’.

Breaking Ground Garden by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio

The garden highlights the College’s ambition to break down the barriers to a life-changing education by making it possible for more young people to attend the College regardless of their financial situation. Sponsored by the boutique investment manager, Darwin Property Investment Management Limited (Darwin Property), a passionate supporter of this progressive vision, the 2017 garden also marks Darwin’s wide-ranging commitment to raising awareness and funds for the new programme and its broader support for young talent in the business community.

Breaking Ground Garden by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio

At the core of ‘Breaking Ground’ is the College’s belief that every child has a right to a life-changing education enabling them to reach their full potential. Central to this ambition is an educational ethos that is focussed on encouraging intellectual curiosity, on true independence, on a generous and far-reaching inclusivity and on the courage to be properly and unselfishly individual - the capacity to be inspired to become the very best you can be.

Designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam - the erudite duo known for their daring yet thoughtful designs - the garden explores themes of progress, evolution and thought patterns. 

Breaking Ground Garden by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio

A central feature of the garden is the series of monumental, transparent, steel walls. The 4m high structures express the concept of the disappearing walls of accessing education – allowing students to access a Wellington education based on their ability rather than their financial circumstances. Over 200 students from the family of Wellington schools in the UK and in China have handwritten personal messages about their visions for the future. These thoughts are inscribed onto the boundary wall in an explosive, wave-like manner.

The garden design also references the synaptic activity governing our thought process – triggering cognitive connections and responses, facilitating the formation of ideas and concepts. The garden is inspired by the structure and nature of our neuronal activity – water, one of the basic elements that makes these processes possible, runs through the hard and soft elements. Ornamental meadow features planting that explodes with sparking umbels and dramatic flower and plant forms that echo synaptic events and trains of thought.

Breaking Ground Garden by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio

The heathland planting at the rear of the garden references the original, bleak heathland landscape in Berkshire, into which Wellington College was established in the 1850s. The garden simultaneously highlights the plight of this habitat – one of the most threatened in the world with more than 80% of lowland heaths having been destroyed since the 19th century.  These expanses of semi-wilderness are home to birch, pine and oak with Molinia dominating the herb layer beneath. Rare species of violet and occasional orchids populate the sward.

Majestic hawthorn trees feature in the ornamental meadow, chosen for their individuality and special quality - another nod to the educational philosophy at the College.

Breaking Ground Garden by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam of the Wilson McWilliam Studio

‘Breaking Ground’ raises awareness for a bold ambition for a new bursary campaign at Wellington College, that will offer life-changing bursaries for young people with talent and promise who would otherwise be unable to access the quality of education and opportunities presented by attending the College. This is part of a broader vision to raise aspirations and attainment and increase opportunities for young people through the College’s network of schools and educational partnerships.

Plant list


Pinus sylvestris
Betula pendula
Crataegus monogyna


Erica tetralix 'Alba Mollis'
Vaccinium myrtillus
Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
Calluna vulgaris
Erica cinerea



Geranium himalayense 'Gravetye'
Viola riviniana
Foeniculum vulgare
Geranium psilostemon
Libertia grandiflora
Silene dioica
Geranium 'Patricia'
Digitalis purpurea
Dianthus carthusianorum
Selinum wallichianum
Pimpinella major 'Rosea'
Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'
Arum maculatum
Aquilegia 'Kristall'
Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis'
Cenolophium denudatum
Lupinus 'Masterpiece'
Valeriana officinalis
Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Blue Barlow' (Barlow Series)
Peucedanum verticillare
Verbascum phoeniceum 'Violetta'
Iris sibirica 'Shirley Pope'
Ligusticum scoticum
Geranium 'Lilac Ice'
Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'
Salvia x jamensis 'Nachtvlinder'
Verbascum phoeniceum 'Flush of White'
Oxalis acetosella
Sanguisorba officinalis 'Tsetseguun'
Viola lutea
Nepeta x faassenii 'Blue Wonder'
Centranthus lecoqii



Stipa gigantea
Juncus effusus f. spiralis
Agrostis capillaris
Eriophorum angustifolium
Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea 'Moorhexe'
Deschampsia cespitosa
Melica altissima 'Alba'


Dryopteris filix-mas
Blechnum spicant



Allium schubertii