Garden design by Warnes McGarr & Co

The Poisonous Garden
RHS Tatton Flower Show

July 2018

Warnes McGarr & Co were approached by The RHS to design and project manage their main visitor exhibit for the RHS Tatton Flower Show 2018. The Poisonous Garden was an enormous immersive garden at 650 sq m, so careful planning and meticulous project management was required.

We began outline plans around February 2018, so we had plenty of time to invest in the fine detail in the later months. Landscape designer Rob spent a long time designing the hard landscaping elements, thinking carefully about the aesthetics, the theme and practical details, such as the flow of visitors walking around.

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The Poisonous Garden

The Poisonous Garden

  • Complete: July 2018

  • Project Size: 650 sq m

  • Project Value: £130,000

Warnes McGarr & Co were approached by The RHS to design and project manage their main visitor exhibit for the RHS Tatton Flower Show 2018. The Poisonous Garden was an enormous immersive garden at 650 sq m, so careful planning and meticulous project management was required.

We began outline plans around February 2018, so we had plenty of time to invest in the fine detail in the later months. Landscape designer Rob spent a long time designing the hard landscaping elements, thinking carefully about the aesthetics, the theme and practical details, such as the flow of visitors walking around.

Five large timber shipping container-style units, wrapped in vinyls featuring anatomical drawings, provided an entrance to the garden, as well as port holes for the visitors to view the different garden sections. Vintage telegraph poles were used to create height, as well as providing a frame to hang sailshades across the seating area in the middle.

These elements gave an industrial and urban feel to the garden, providing the perfect setting and structure for the planting schemes. Signage had to be planned in throughout, including informative boards about the dangers of plants, which is not something we would usually have to consider either in a residential garden or a typical show garden.

Garden designer Michael did huge amounts of research about poisonous plants, driving up and down the length of the country to visit suppliers and specialists and other poisonous gardens.

The ultimate design consisted of four separate planting areas, separated by walkways, which were: Pretty Deadly; Hungry Plants; Apothecary and Plant Defence.

Pretty Deadly featured plants, many of which are common garden plants such as Digitalis purpurea and Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’, which are extremely toxic and potentially deadly. Brugmansia, which can cause delirium and hallucinations and Ricinus communis, from which ricin is derived, were also displayed within the planting.

In addition to this, a huge caged Cycas revoluta was sectioned off as a centrepiece, and is poisonous if any parts of it are ingested, particularly the seeds, and has no known antidote.

Within the Carnivorous planting area, there was a stunning collection of Sarracenia, which digest flying insects, as well as Nepenthes, Drosera binata and Dionaea muscipula.

 The Plant Defence section investigated how plants use spikes or spines, for example, to protect themselves. In a nod to our gold award-winning RHS Tatton garden from 2017, we included the large Echinocactus grusonii, and some beautiful large Agave salmiana ferox, as well as plenty of more common British garden plants that have the ability to injure humans with their thorns, spikes and thistles.

The Apothecary section was absolutely fascinating to research and plan out the complex planting scheme. The extensive planting list included medicinal plants, which can be harmful if used in excess or can be healing if used in moderation.

The planting scheme included many herbs and medicinal plants as well as tree specimens of Ginkgo biloba; Aesculus hippocastanum and Vitex agnus castus.

 You can view the full and extensive planting list here:

The Poisonous Garden planting list

Warnes McGarr Cheshire Tatton gold award

Gold award-winning Tatton garden 2101
RHS Tatton Flower Show

July, 2017

This year’s Cheshire RHS Tatton Show garden brought home three medals for Warnes McGarr & Co – the coveted gold medal, Best Construction in Show and Best Future Spaces garden.

Known simply as 2101, the garden imagined what our British residential gardens would look like in the year 2101, when global warming has caused temperature rises of around 7c.

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Gold award-winning Tatton garden 2101

Gold award-winning Tatton garden 2101

  • Complete: July, 2017

  • Project Size: 225 sq m

  • Project Value: £90,000

This year’s Cheshire RHS Tatton Show garden brought home three medals for Warnes McGarr & Co – the coveted gold medal, Best Construction in Show and Best Future Spaces garden.

Known simply as 2101, the garden imagined what our British residential gardens would look like in the year 2101, when global warming has caused temperature rises of around 7c.

With native species long gone and large specimen cacti and tropical planting thriving, this design resembles the landscape of Southern California or Mexico.

With a ‘Mad Max’ appeal to the garden, it certainly created a talking point at the show and impressed the judges, as well as the BBC Gardeners’ World presenters.

The 2101 garden was sponsored by Cactus Direct, who provided the 60cm wide Echinocactus grusonii and the 150cm tall Polaskia chichipe.

The structural elements of the garden – the conical relaxing area, the spherical shaded area and the battered-edge sandstone table and benches – were all designed by Robert Warnes. Casa Ceramica supplied the large format, single piece porcelain tiles, which formed a stepped path.

A split-level design was included to act as a ‘rain garden’ that manages increased rainwater run off within the garden. This collects water in the permeable higher areas, and distributes it into lower, densely planted areas that soak up excess moisture, alleviating flood risks.

The garden included a range of planting that can cope with extreme heat on the higher level, and plants that can deal with extremes of water and drought on the lower level.

We apply these concepts in our garden deisgns today to manage excess rainwater and periods of drought while alleviating flood risks in the future.

Within the garden, trees that are flourishing in the warmer climate include: Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine); Alnus glutinosa (Common elder) and Betula nigra (River birch).

Tropical trees and large plants that are growing and thriving in 2101 include: Yucca filifera; Yucca rostrata; Yucca glorisoa; Trithrinax campestris; Nannorrhops richinana and Butia odorata. In addition to this, drought-resistant meadow planting provides colour and texture.

With thanks to: Cactus Direct, Casa Ceramics, Rectory Garden Plants, The Tropical Plant Company, Brooks Brothers and Bo Concept.

From Hall To Home
RHS Tatton Flower Show

July 2016

With a silver medal for the second year on the run and an appearance on BBC2, Warnes McGarr & Co have had another massively successful year at RHS Tatton Flower Show in July 2016.

The show garden – named From Hall To Home – celebrates the tercentenary of Capability Brown’s birth and demonstrates how his naturalistic planting style has influenced modern garden design.

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From Hall To Home

From Hall To Home

  • Complete: July 2016

  • Project Size: 100m2

  • Project Value: £45,000

With a silver medal for the second year on the run and an appearance on BBC2, Warnes McGarr & Co have had another massively successful year at RHS Tatton Flower Show in July 2016.

The show garden – named From Hall To Home – celebrates the tercentenary of Capability Brown’s birth and demonstrates how his naturalistic planting style has influenced modern garden design.

The design won a silver award within the Evolution Gardens, and designer Michael was interviewed by TV presenter Rachel De Thame for the BBC 2 programme about the RHS Flower Show.

The design features a classical bust of Capability Brown himself, along with a Palladian-inspired arbour – painted matt back for a contemporary look. Old-style brick paving harks back to the classical era, while corten steel water bowls brings the garden back to contemporary times, in recognition of Capability Brown’s affiliation with water features.

The soft perennial meadow planting was set against a more formal line of clipped Buxus Semperviren and pleached trees. In the middle of the garden is a fire/ ice table, champagne cooler and firepit  which is a nod to Michael’s signature garden design, as a usable living and dining space.

Eat and Shelter
BBC Gardeners’ World Live

June 2016

The Eat and Shelter garden was awarded a gold medal, as well as Best Construction, by the judges at the BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the Birmingham NEC in June 2016.

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Eat and Shelter

Eat and Shelter

  • Complete: June 2016

  • Project Size: 42m2

  • Project Value: £35,000

This show garden encapsulates Michael McGarr’s signature design look, which combines stunning textural planting with usable living spaces for eating and dining. With a fire/ ice table and top-of-the-range Alfa wood-burning pizza oven, this is a garden designed with family gatherings on a warm summer evening in mind.

The contemporary planting combines grasses, tall flowering plants and edible planting for a very modern textured look. The corten steel pergola gives a sculptural shape to the garden, and clearly defines an eating and cooking area.

However, nature is never forgotten, even in a show garden design, and hedgehog passes were cut into the fencing, and bug hotels dotted around to ensure wildlife can thrive.