The concept garden ‘ A Garden at the End of the Earth ‘ has been opened by TV celebrities. The BBC TV series Pilgrimage: Road to Santiago succeeded in raising the profile of the Camino and Northern Spain as a visitor destination. The program proved popular with viewers following the cast of seven (actor Morrissey, TV reporter Rowe and Radio 2/Gogglebox vicar Bottley, among others) as they tried to complete a 780km pilgrimage across northern Spain in 15 days
A garden has been created to replicate the Atlantic coast of north-west Spain in the show garden collaboration between the Spanish Tourist Office, Tur Galicia and Rose McMonigall.
The garden was awarded a silver RHS medal and simulates the breathtaking scenery of the Rías De Galicia; the estuaries on the rugged Galician coast. Secluded coves are scattered throughout this region and McMonigall celebrates these coastal havens, their wild flora and the local tradition of shell-cladding, as well as paying homage to the special local seafood.
Visitors are taken to a small cove, sheltered by two coastal pine trees. A path meanders from the beach, past an old sea wall, through a variety of salt-resistant shrubs, rock plants and flowering grasses, to a weather-beaten fisherman’s cottage. Traditional Galician cooking pots are used as plant containers filled with bay and geranium, and a pantiled roof is weighed down with stones to provide shelter from the Atlantic gales. A rock pool sits in the boulders filled with colourful pebbles and shells. In the shallows, a small fishing boat is beached, ready for its next trip out to collect the rich abundance of seafood of the Rías De Galicia.
The garden’s backdrop depicts distant hazy mountains of Finisterre, the final destination for many pilgrims on the Way of St James, using a panelled art installation filled with scallop shells to form an impressionist collage. Historically, the walls of buildings in the region were often clad in porous scallop shells to reduce humidity inside. The scallop shell is the sacred icon of the pilgrims on the nearby Camino to Santiago de Compostela and is the symbol of St James himself.
Shells are present on the beach and traditional mussel baskets, nets and Galician lobster pots are in the boat and undergrowth.
Although the garden resembles the spirit and romantic beauty of Galicia, it uses plants which can be easily purchased in the UK, so that show-goers can replicate the effect in their own outdoor areas. Succulents such as sedums (stonecrop), saxifrage (rockfoils) and sempervivum (houseleeks) feature with eryngium (sea hollies), armeria maritima (sea thrifts), stipa (grasses), plus rosemary, thymes, fennels, tansy and tamarisk. Many plants growing in Galicia also thrive quite happily in sheltered parts of the UK.
Designer Rose McMonigall said, “I was inspired by my visits to Galicia to paint a picture of an idyllic scene, a secluded beach on the Atlantic coast, glimpsed through pine trees, with the ultimate hideaway of a fisherman’s cottage nestled amid the wild-looking vegetation.”
Javier Piñanes, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in London said, “In partnership with the region of Galicia, we are delighted to be collaborating with RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and garden designer Rose McMonigall this year. Galicia is a very unique, spiritual and cultural destination with an outstanding coastline strung with dramatic cliffs and pretty fishing ports. The interior offers a labyrinth of valleys and hills and is one of Spain’s most green and vibrant regions. We are excited to be bringing a slice of Galicia to London this year and look forward to showcasing some of the highlights at the Flower Show.”