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The Poetry Lover’s Garden

By garden designer Fiona Cadwallader. Gardens have inspired great poems throughout history, from Homer’s Garden of Alcinous to Milton’s Paradise Lost, through to Elizabeth Jenning’s In a Garden. 

For Garden Designer Fiona Cadwallader, it was a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, This Lime Tree Bower My Prison, which provided the inspiration for her debut Artisan Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

 The Poetry Lover’s Garden by Fiona Cadwallader

In the poem Coleridge alludes to a time when injury prevented him from enjoying the countryside with his friends. He talks of the little lime tree bower in which he is seated as a prison, a place where he can only imagine the beautiful sights that his friends are seeing. By the poem’s end however, Coleridge no longer sees himself as a prisoner and, is able to enjoy the nature of his surroundings whilst seeing himself imaginatively connected to the wider world that his friends are experiencing.

The Poetry Lover’s Garden by Fiona Cadwallader

The beautiful sentiment expressed by the poem echo Fiona’s own belief that one can find natural wonders everywhere if only one has an appreciation for nature. Fiona’s garden subtly references the poem in elements of its design and planting. Four dramatic, rooftop pruned Tilia x euchlora offer a designed reference to the shady bower of the poem’s title, while other suggestions can be found in the ivy-clad dry stone walls, the sound of a waterfall provided by a contemporary stainless-steel water feature, and cottage garden beanflowers, while the polished concrete paving embodies ease, modernity and reflection. A gate into the wildflower-filled orchard to the rear of the garden, offers a hint of escape into a less secluded world beyond and the pleasures of human contact that Coleridge sought. All these elements conjure the uplifting spirituality of the poem’s dramatic conclusion, leaving the viewer afloat on the power of their imagination.

Bespoke Metalwork Features

Fiona is unusual among garden designers, as she is not only trained in garden design but is also an established interior designer and artist. For The Poetry Lover’s Garden, Fiona has designed three bespoke sculptural pieces.  At the rear of the garden, Fiona has created an ornamental stainless steel gate, which suggests access to wider landscapes of orchards and wildflower meadows beyond the enclosure of the garden. Fiona’s impressive 1.8 metre stainless steel water feature is a curvaceous and reflective design. Water ripples down the length of the curved steel, into a large trough below, providing sparkle, soun and movement, alluding to the waterfall referenced in Coleridge’s poem.

 The Poetry Lover’s Garden by Fiona Cadwallader

At the centre of the garden, Fiona has designed a striking focal point: a steel chaise longue which balances effortlessly, as though floating on a shining metal orb. The seat can gently revolve to follow the sun, providing the perfect resting place for any poet seeking inspiration. Fiona’s interior design influences are evident throughout the garden, with the use of contrasting textures within the hard-landscaping materials. The garden has a centrepiece of polished concrete paving, which provides reflection and a sense of modernity. The dry limestone walls enclosing the garden, evoke the timeless ruggedness of the Quantock Hills - the location for Coleridge’s poem.

Rich & Textured Planting Scheme

The formal structure of the garden is complemented by Fiona’s signature rich and densely textured planting scheme.  The Formality of the topiary contrasts with the soft underplanting of the borders, with mounds and spires of shade-loving perennials and shrubs. Intermingled in the herbaceous planting there are also some edibles, as referenced in Coleridge’s poem. There are broad beans, fruit trees and strawberry plants which create a sense of a cottage garden.

 The Poetry Lover’s Garden by Fiona Cadwallader

Fiona has utilised the colours of the poem to influence her planting scheme - green, white, lemon, lime, with shots of dark purple-black and accents of azure and deep blue, and different leaf combinations contrast soft mounds and delicate spires.

The Poetry Lover’s Garden by Fiona Cadwallader

Star plants include: Peonies ‘Jan van Leeuwen’ and ‘Shirley Temple’; Bearded Iris, ‘Sable’ and ‘Jurassic Park’; Kirengeshoma palmata, Geum ‘Lemon Drops’, Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’ and Amsonia tabaernaemontana var. salicifolia

Plant list

Alchemilla mollis
Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile'
Anchusa azurea 'Loddon Royalist'
Asplenium trichomanes
Fritillaria persica 'Adiyaman'
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson'
Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora
Geranium pratense 'Mrs Kendall Clark'
Leucanthemum vulgare
Tellima grandiflora
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
Galium odoratum
Geranium phaeum var. phaeum 'Samobor'
Hosta undulata var. univittata
Viola labradorica
Asarum europaeum
Fragaria vesca
Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'
Silene fimbriata
Ranunculus acris
Hosta 'Devon Green'
Paeonia lactiflora 'Jan van Leeuwen'
Geum rivale 'Lemon Drops'
Iris 'Black Swan'
Tilia x europaea
Euphorbia x pasteurii
Pulmonaria 'Majeste'
Anthriscus sylvestris
Astrantia major 'Star of Billion'
Selaginella kraussiana
Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia
Trollius x cultorum 'Cheddar'
Petroselinum crispum 'Moss Curled'


Other featured plants

Asplenium scolopendrium
Myrtus communis
Kirengeshoma palmata
Paeonia 'Shirley Temple'
Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum'
Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'
Libertia grandiflora
Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno'
Vicia faba
Waldsteinia ternata
Pulmonaria 'Opal'
Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume'
Cymbalaria muralis
Briza media
Hedera helix 'Sagittifolia'
Thalictrum 'Black Stockings'
Iris sibirica 'Papillon'
Melica altissima 'Alba'



Designed by Fiona Cadwallader