Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Local designer wins national awards for Sedlescombe school sensory garden

HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was delighted to learn that local garden designer Kristina Clode has  won two prestigious national awards for designing Sedlescombe Primary School’s sensory garden. The garden was selected for both the Design for the Environment and Judges’ awards by the Society of Garden Designers in an annual event which highlights the very best in horticultural design and innovation across the UK.

At the London award ceremony in mid October the garden was described in head judge Richard Sneesby’s speech as “extraordinary”. He said: “It’s generous, beautiful, stimulating, creative, all the things that you want a garden to be, and it possibly sets a new high bar for school grounds in the future.”

Kristina Clode receiving her awards.

Because it is a school garden, with little money and less time for maintenance, Kristina has designed a sustainable garden that will flourish in dry conditions. She says she was very much inspired by Beth Chatto‘s gravel garden in Elmstead Market near Colchester, while for the steep banks inspiration came from  Olivier Filippi‘s Mediterranean planting.

Importance of the natural world

These Covid times have added an extra stressful time to already anxious school life. Consquently, a place where both staff and pupils can spend time and chill out is welcome.

School head Caroline Harvey has seen how “The children, staff and parents of Sedlescombe Church of England Primary School absolutely love our amazing sensory garden that not only looks stunning all year round, but also provides a haven for our children that supports their learning, play and mental and spiritual well-being. I am thankful to everyone who gave their time, skills and commitment to bringing Kristina’s design to life. We feel very lucky to have such a special garden as a part of our school grounds.”

© Kristina Clode

School community effort

Designed by Kristina on a shoestring budget of £5,000 in 2017, it was  built with the help of parents, staff and the children themselves, who all participated by planting a plant and laying stones to mark out the pathways.

Kristina said: “This was a really special project to me as both of my children have been at school here; they were involved in building the garden alongside me, as were all the children at the school and many of their parents and teachers – it was a true community effort.”

Opened in January 2018 by head gardener at Great Dixter Fergus Garrett, the tranquil garden sits in contrast to the bustling playground beyond, a place for the children and their teachers to be immersed in colourful plants of different heights, textures and scents. The sustainable, low-maintenance design also helps children learn about the environment and develop an interest and love for horticulture.

Head judge Richard Sneesby said this was perhaps the most important Judges’ Award they had given in the last decade. “This kind of project we hope is a precedent, we hope that funding bodies will increasingly realise the critical role that these projects bring to early years development, and society as a whole, and that money, and I mean proper money, that pays fees and pays all of our suppliers and everyone to do this, follows these projects.”

© Abigail Rex

Mum-of-two Kristina, based in Brede, said she was “thrilled” her garden had received recognition from the Society of Garden Designers judges. “I don’t think a garden with such a tiny budget has ever won the Judges’ Award before,” she said. “I’m very proud of the garden, it took a lot of effort to make it a reality, but we created a piece of magic for the children, teachers and wildlife to enjoy every day.”

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Posted 20:14 Friday, Oct 29, 2021 In: Home Ground

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