The garden has been designed by Sparsholt’s multiple-medal-winning team in celebration of Gilbert White, a true hero of Hampshire and the natural world to mark the tercentenary of his birth. The exhibit highlights White’s life’s work and accomplishments observing the natural history around him and demonstrates how important a resource his records remain for us today. Hear more about the project here.
‘The Natural Kalendar’ garden was designed to bring to life phenology – the study of nature’s lifecycles and seasonal variations in climate – from 250 years in the past through to the present day, and its impact on future plant species selection. The theme of climate change also shows how observations by White (1720-1793), the father of ecology, enlightened people to the changing seasons and species activity – findings that are still relevant today.
‘The Natural Kalendar’ transports us to an idyllic Hampshire scene with extraordinary architectural features from White’s garden and plantings familiar to White’s 18th century home. Beautiful calligraphy script slate signs positioned throughout the garden quote from Gilbert White’s 18th century manuscripts, The Garden Kalendar, in combination with cutting edge cultivars from modern day creating the perfect walk through time.
A thatched, spinning ‘Wine Pipe Seat’ made from an old port barrel is a key element of the exhibit. Originally designed by White to observe the passing environment over long periods, the seat provided protection from wind, a downpour of rain, or burning sunshine. This innovative creation has been transformed from a traditional port barrel by the Sparsholt College team and Simon Richards, Master Thatcher and traditional Hampshire craftsperson, who helped build the current seat seen at Gilbert White’s House. The spinning seat is surrounded by a wild flower turf alike to vast natural meadow found at Selborne.
Other features from White’s garden include a Ha ha, imitation fruit wall originally used at Selborne to ripen fruit, and Melon Frame as a nod to the early melon cultivars that White grew in innovative ‘hot beds’. An Alcove is also a focus point within the design. Originally constructed in 1760 (as a small timber structure providing a more cost-effective version of a grand stone building) this shelter was used by the White family and friends for entertaining and enjoying the garden views.
The ‘Six Quarters’ feature of the garden has been recreated to contain flowers, herbs and vegetables to reflect the progression to a more modern style of working and kitchen gardens. All plants nearest the garden’s fruit wall are currently grown at Gilbert White’s Garden and would have been familiar to White. The final row of quarter beds incorporate Gilbert White’s investigative spirit with cutting edge cultivars and project plants that he may have selected for modern conditions including Thompson & Morgan RHS Plant of the Year 2020 entries. Watch the students from Sparsholt College begin planning The Natural Kalendar garden here.
The team at Sparsholt College are proud of the work they have achieved so far in creating this inspiring garden. Keep up to date with their future plans for the project here.