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Landscape architecture students celebrate the unsung heroes of the plant kingdom with RHS Chatsworth Flower Show garden


A team of landscape architecture students at Leeds Beckett University were among the first to showcase their innovative garden design at the new RHS Chatsworth Flower Show earlier this month.

Tom, Zuzanna and Frankie at Chatsworth

Frankie Tomany and Zuzanna Golczyk, second year BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture and Design students, and Tom Rawlings, an MA Landscape Architecture student, designed their garden, the Path of Least Resistance, for the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. The show ran from Wednesday 7 to Sunday 11 June and was set within the 1,000-acre parkland of the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

The theme of the RHS show was Design Revolutionaries’. It aimed to celebrate garden designers of the past, especially Joseph Paxton, who was once the Chatsworth Estate’s gardener, as well as the talent, ideas and conceptual thinking of today’s generation of gardeners.

Landscape design students working in the resource centre greenhouse
Zuzanna, Frankie and Tom

Zuzanna explained: “The concept of our garden, ‘The Path of Least Resistance’, centred around the importance of wild, natural spaces in our urban environments and the positive impacts they make to biodiversity and human wellbeing. These plants provide valuable habitat, ecological functions and beauty to forgotten patches of the urban landscape.

“'The Path of Least Resistance' works with these plants, re-creating a naturalistic urban garden, drawing attention to the beauty of these often overlooked species, highlighting and sharing knowledge on many of the benefits they offer to wildlife and the future gardener.

“We want to challenge people's perceptions of 'weeds' and inspire them to work with nature to create affordable and sustainable gardens that are easy to maintain. Rather than spending hours pruning and weeding to create what we typically think of as a perfect garden, why not follow the path of least resistance?

“Joseph Paxton’s great conservatory at Chatsworth was inspired by the huge leaves of the lily, which he said were ‘a natural feat of engineering’. We too have turned to nature to drive our design.”

Frankie welding in the Landscape Resource Centre

The team created as much of their garden as possible within the Landscape Resource Centre at Leeds Beckett, including making four large metal sculptures, growing plants in the greenhouses, and doing a full test build, to make sure that the structures could be safely secured. They then had two weeks to build the garden at Chatsworth.

Speaking ahead of the show, Tom said: “We’re really excited, we've been working on this project for months, and now that we have started building the structures it's incredible to see our design come to life. We are feeling very lucky and really supported by our course, allowing us to work flexibly on the project.”

Zuzanna, Frankie and Tom with one of their landscape garden sculptures 

Jo Jolley, Principal Learning Officer in the Landscape Resource Centre at Leeds Beckett, said: “It is wonderful and very exciting that the students won a place at RHS Chatsworth. We have a long tradition of students showing at RHS garden shows but this year our students are entering into a new category celebrating free-form expression. They have produced something thought-provoking, getting people to think about their gardens in a different way.

“The students’ garden was located within a new category for the RHS, ‘FreeForm’, which removed some of the restrictions imposed on the classical show gardens and aimed to encourage designers to be bold, sculptural and expressive. The theme of the new RHS show reflected Chatsworth as an estate. They have a strong tradition of showcasing modern art within an historic building. Their large grounds are a great opportunity to be creative and to inspire people to look at gardens and plants in a different way.”

The Path of Least Resistance at Chatsworth

Speaking about her decision to study at Leeds Beckett, Frankie said: “I chose to study at Leeds Beckett University because of the possibilities offered by the 3D workshops and the fantastic facilities here – the unique atmosphere of the Landscape Resource Centre, with its experimental gardens, greenhouses and construction areas, allows students to get out of the studio, trial ideas and prepare for events like this one.”

The Path of Least Resistance at Chatsworth

To find out more about the Path of Least Resistance and watch a short film about the project, visit the students’ blog.

This year, Leeds Beckett University is celebrating 50 years of Landscape Architecture education. For more information, please see the 50 Years homepage.

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