Pop star-turned-gardener Kim Wilde was in Lakeland this week to finalise plans for her Cumbrian fellside garden, which will be exhibited at next month's Chelsea Flower Show.
Kim visited Honister Slate Mine, Borrowdale, where she selected some of its green slate, which will be incorporated into her design. Mine owner Mark Weir said: "Kim was very keen to go underground and see exactly where the slate came from. She was looking for the particular texture and colour which would fit with her design and we were only too pleased to help. It is good to see a celebrity take such a real interest in the slate and the mine it has come from. This was the first time she had been underground and she was fascinated."
Kim selected slate to use as flag flooring as well as some which will be made into slate urns for the garden. She also visited Brantwood, Coniston, the home of John Ruskin, to discuss the Cumbrian garden showpiece, which she created alongside Richard Lucas, head gardener of the Lakeside Hotel, Newby Bridge. Windermere.
As a big fan of Cumbria, both its natural landscape and its carefully-tended gardens, Kim's visit coincided with the launch of Cumbria Tourist Board's guide called The Gardens, Parks and Wildlife of Cumbria - the Lake District. The 46-page guide, which has been part-financed by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), is a popular publication with visitors. Kim was due to have a private whistle-stop tour of some of Cumbria's showpiece gardens.
Writing in the introduction to this year's Cumbria Tourist Board guide, Kim explained how she came to be involved with creating a Cumbrian garden, which will go on show to the public for the first time at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea flower show from 25th to 28th May. She wrote: "Gardens designed by people like William Wordsworth at Rydal Mount, and John Ruskin at Brantwood are at one with nature and the surrounding countryside. They are gardens that are unique to this breathtaking land of lakes and mountains. It is the stunning scenery and the beautiful gardens in Cumbria that inspired me to design a garden for the Chelsea flower show in May. I have teamed up with Richard Lucas from the Lakeside Hotel to design the Cumbrian fellside garden. Our design sets out to both work with, yet contrast against, the indisputable influence of Mother Nature herself. The garden has been designed as if it is carved out of the sloping plot of an overgrown farmhouse yard. Ultimately nature is always in control, for example a rivulet falling from the fell has no other course but through her garden. The rear of the garden, mostly wild, hold back nature from advancing to reclaim its former territory. Wild flowers grow in the long grass and from the dry stone walls. Natural slates are used as flagstones and also retain the wild flower bank. The surrounding native plants have inspired a selection of new plants with new cultivated varieties echoing those on the fellside. A living willow arbour creates a seating area for quiet contemplation with a handmate slate urn providing a focal point.
"I hope the Cumbrian Fellside Garden will inspire more people to discover and enjoy some of the stunning gardens in this beautiful part of the country."
Mr. Lucas, an award-winning and long-standing gardener at the Lakeside Hotel, said he met Kim after offering to help her develop a garden for the Holker Hall garden festival. He said: "Kim and I got on really well and we made a great team. What started as a few rough sketches soon became the fellside garden and was posted off to the Royal Horticultural Society. After an anxious two months wait we were delighted to hear that our entry had been accepted and would be one of only nine 'courtyard' Chelsea gardens. This was just the start of a mountain of planning work, from ordering plants to selecting slate for the garden. There are leaflets to write and food and accommodation to arrange and, of course, forms to fill in. When the garden is finished it will be the result of many, many hours of hard work, spanning a whole year.
"Kim and I are both first time Chelsea exhibitors and are looking forward immensely to showcasing Cumbria at the world's greatest flower show", said Mr. Lucas.
Ian Stephens, chief executive of Cumbria Tourist Board, said: "We are delighted that Kim and Richard will be profiling Cumbria's beautiful gardens at such a major event as the Chelsea Flower Show. Cumbria - the Lake District is home to many glorious gardens and it's an ideal way for visitors to spend time in the country."
Peter Mearns, director of marketing at the NWDA, said: "England's north west boasts some of Britain's most enchanting gardens, parklands and outdoor attractions and the stunning backdrop of the Lake District can only serve to enhance these attractions. The agency welcomes the launch of the new guide as an important addition to the tourism appeal of England's north west."