Our part-time Garden Design students are helping to shape Dorchester’s heritage in a college competition to redesign the defunct bowling green in the town’s Borough Gardens.
The yearlong project was initiated last spring by the Friends of Borough Gardens who contacted Dorset Wildlife Trust about planting a wildflower meadow. Whilst a meadow can be a worthwhile and ecological contribution to the local environment, they can also unfortunately often become overgrown and untidy. In view of the proposed site Dorset Wildlife Trust suggested a more visually pleasing, and in fact more worthy alternative: a grass free lawn.
This simple solution is low growing, comprises over 20 plant species and most importantly is fifty times more effective to pollinators – bees and butterflies – than the more traditional wildflower meadow. This lawn would be grown in individual dense live ‘mats’ off site then laid in situ in a patchwork pattern for optimum visual impact.
This proposal was presented to a committee from Dorchester Town Council, and so impressed them that the project was adopted by Dorchester Town Mayor Peter Mann.
The students and their tutor Michelle Brown were approached in October and tasked with the design, a challenge they embraced, despite having only been studying Garden Design for two months. Our Level 1 Diploma students are also integral to the project – along with other local educational establishments – growing plug plants (small seedling plants) for the lawn mats.
The Garden design students have been given professional feedback throughout the process, benefitting them with valuable experience in a live project, and whilst the winning design may not be able to be used in its entirety due to cost restrictions, elements will be worked in to the Borough Gardens project.
In a prizegiving ceremony at Kingston Maurward College, the winning ammonite inspired design was by practising GP Alison Blakeway, with runners up: Vicky Saines, Stella Welch and Bridget Foster.
Winner Alison said: “I’m delighted to win – it was really good to work on such an interesting project – and a complete change from what I’m used to. Michelle (Brown) is inspirational – I did the five week introduction course and enjoyed it so much that I decided to do the yearlong course afterwards, I love it.”
Mayor Peter Mann said: “Thank you to you all from Dorchester Town Council. I can hardly believe you are within twelve weeks of starting this course – we are bowled over by the presentation and sheer amount of thinking that went into the project.”
The project was funded by a grant provided by the Stanley Smith Horticulture Trust which provided seed trays, compost and plus plants and Dorset County Council will supply signage for the new gardens.
Easter Monday – 6th April – will provide the backdrop for the grand launch culminating in the planting of the lawn mats, with the event being supported by the Bumble Bee Trust, Dorset Bee Keepers Association and Butterfly Conservation. The public are welcome, and kits will be available for people to create grass-free lawns in their own back gardens.
Project manager, Dorset Wildlife Trust Community Conservation Officer, Joy Wallis, said: “I am really, really impressed with what was submitted – way better than I expected – brilliant! The designs showed a real sense of heritage – the gardens, the town and its history were all considered. The students should be very proud.”