Tribute to centenary up for judging at show

A Stainless Century designed by Sheffield-based garden designer Phil Hirst has been commissioned by the Sanctuary Group  for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in July 2013. Phil Hirst is pictured (centre) with Sanctuary Group apprentices Calum Ashton (left)  and Luke Ward
A Stainless Century designed by Sheffield-based garden designer Phil Hirst has been commissioned by the Sanctuary Group for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in July 2013. Phil Hirst is pictured (centre) with Sanctuary Group apprentices Calum Ashton (left) and Luke Ward

A garden commemorating the centenary of stainless steel is going on show at one of the country’s top flower shows next week.

Designed by Sheffield horticulturist Phil Hirst, it includes a series of steel arches reminiscent of the Winter Garden and references various Sheffield landmarks.

It can be seen at the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show in Tatton Park, Cheshire.

Phil, from Oughtibridge, has been designing gardens for the past six years after deciding on a career change from 20 years working as an accountant at the university.

“This is the first time I have done a show garden as distinct from domestic gardens,” he says. “Show gardens tend to more conceptual in terms of a theme.

“I thought of the anniversary of stainless steel because it seemed to me it was something people outside Sheffield weren’t necessarily aware of. It was a good way of promoting Sheffield to a wider audience.”

The garden, A Stainless Century, is being sponsored by Sanctuary UK, the housing and care provider who have lent two of their horticultural apprentices to work on the project.

With 2,500 homes on the Shiregreen estate in Sheffield, Sanctuary has many residents who have lived and worked in the steel industry, and they see the garden as symbolising its importance in everyday life.

So where did he start with the design? “I’m not someone who can sit in front of a blank piece of paper it’s more like ideas come to me, sometimes in the middle of the night,” he says.

“It started with the arches which emulate the Winter Garden. It’s such a strong architectural building and I thought if I wanted to represent Sheffield visually that would be it. There are seven arches to match the seven hills.”

Among other ideas is a water feature representing molten steel pouring from a crucible and a steel wall based on the ‘cheese grater’ car park.

The planting is being carried out by Rhinegold Nursery at Loxley. As to the choice of plants Phil looked for colours that he felt would blend with steel - “blues, purples, pinks - on the whole silky colours”.

Then he chose hot colours to match the molten steel in organzas and zygmorphics.

There are also different grasses and roses and lavender.

“You have to think how things will look on judging day and the rest of the show and the weather we have had this month has made it quite difficult,” Phil added.

Having the design on paper accepted by the RHS was one thing - quite another was putting it into practice, once Phil had seen the allocated site which was sloping in the wrong direction.

It required 80 tonnes of earth to get the level right.

The RHS show is open from July 25 to Sunday but A Stainless Century will live on, as Sanctuary intends to recreate it in the grounds of a new retirement scheme in Stocksbridge.