Suffolk Show Countdown: Teenager Solly provides inspiration for show garden design

Gill King of Halesworth weaving the willow borders for her Compass Garden, which will feature at the

Gill King of Halesworth weaving the willow borders for her Compass Garden, which will feature at the Suffolk Show - Credit: Archant

A teenager has provided the inspiration for landscape gardener Gill King’s design for her model show garden at this year’s Suffolk Show.(May 27 & 28)

Garden designer Gill King’s concept for The Compass Garden.

Garden designer Gill Kings concept for The Compass Garden. - Credit: Archant

Solly, aged 12, a type 1 diabetes sufferer, suddenly contracted Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP).

The rare disease, which targets the autoimmune system, left him very suddenly him without any reflexes in his legs and hands that resulted in muscle wastage, depriving him of any mobility.

The younger of Gill’s two sons, Solly had always taken a keen interest in gardening with his mum, but gradually as he had to wear splints this became increasingly difficult.

Through observing him, Gill came up with a garden design which would enable his participation and future enjoyment, and was accessible for disabled people who find bending difficult, if not impossible.

She realised the borders did not just have to be raised, but constructed a lot higher and laid out at different heights, but with plenty of space in between to make them accessible.

To ensure she had the correct heights and widths, she chalked out the design on a basketball court in her home town of Halesworth and enlisted the help of a disabled friend to test-drive the design for her Compass Garden in his electric buggy.

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Gill discovered that the original square beds needed rounded edges, six beds were too much for the space and so reduced to four and some designed vertically, others horizontally, all to aid manoeuvrability.

“The intention is to construct a beautiful, innovative practical, exciting and sustainable space with the needs of the disabled, the infirm and the environment in mind,” she said.

Working together with a collective of craftspeople, between them with many years’ experience and skilled across a various aspects of hard and soft landscaping, enabled Gill to incorporate many different features and give the community feel she was keen to include.

The boundary comprises a living triple weave coppiced hazel and willow design and two front beds have hazel uprights. The beds are filled with a variety of species donated by the Urban Jungle, Norwich and Hattons Nursery of Metfield, selected fro their textures and colours and to encourage bird and small wildlife.

There are life-size willow heron sculptures, a traditional Bee Skep, willow bird houses and feeders together with an open pavilion built by her carpenter son Julius.

The roof is formed from tin roof shingles, made from the tops and bottoms of catering size food cans donated by Bungay High where Solly is at school, cleverly burned in fire to give an original patination and then fastened together.

The centre of the gable end is constructed from old wine glasses. The pathways will comprise reclaimed brick laid on sand and she is even hoping to include a water feature.

Before running her company Wild Earth Works, Gill had a recycled art business creating sculptures and designs from discarded plastic bottles, cans and other scrap metal and regularly brings together people involved in different crafts to contribute to her designs.

Gill’s garden is one of four situated at the entrance to the Glasswells Flower and Garden Experience marquee that will be judged during the Suffolk Show by BBC Radio Suffolk’s Lesley Dolphin, Geoff Proctor from Crown Nurseries of Ufford and landscape designer Ed Hopkins.

Other gardens are by Robert Boast of “Boast about the Garden” of Shotley Gate, the students from Easton and Otley College and Simon Hutchinson of Hutchinson’s Landscaping.

Four primary schools - Walsham le Willows CEVC, Ickworth, Cold Fair Green Knodishall and Carlton Colville primary schools - have designed and planted a 3m by 3m garden based around the theme a Slice of Suffolk Life for an inaugural competition at the show.

The winners will receive the new trophy given in memory of Rob Wrinch, a keen gardener, by his widow Doreen, as well as special planter and garden tools to be presented by Stephanie Harrod, managing director of Harrod Horticultural.

The Suffolk Show takes place on May 27 and 28. For the latest news and to buy discounted tickets, visit