For the past 15 years I have been gradually creating a landscape in what we called the ‘Canyons’ as a semi-natural adjunct to the garden. This was to be larger both in scale and in its plantings from anything we had done elsewhere. I had virtually finished the shaping of the ground in 2019 and was ready to move on to the next stage of making the ponds and creating some of the planting spaces when Ros was cruelly taken from this world by lung cancer despite having never smoked in her life.
Since she was excited by the prospect of this garden from its conception I would like to try and push on and finish this area. It will encompass water, wildlife, a seeming wildness, vivid seasonal colour that she effortlessly captured in her paintings, and a calming tranquility that encapsulate many of her passions in life, so it seems apt to dedicate this part of the garden to her memory.
If you would like to help make the Ros Wiley Tribute Garden become a reality, please consider making a donation. You can do so by visiting :-
or by cheque or Bank transfer (details at the bottom of this page). I will not be able to do this without financial assistance.
It is hoped in time, if we can generate sufficient funding, to upgrade the planned pavilion so we can open this part of Wildside as a cancer respite garden for those still affected by the indiscriminate hardship and heartache that cancer trails in its wake.
The current site
After years and countless tonnes of earth moving the site currently looks like this:
Initially I dug this area out with the intention of creating the ‘feel’ of a disused quarry with a single deep pond that would have doubled up as a natural swimming pool. Protected by the large banks on 3 sides but open to the south it would be sheltered and sunny. Alongside I thought we could import 15 tons of sand and have our own beach and then build a summer house pavilion, where after taking a dip, we would while away those long summer days I imagined for our retirement years ! So entrenched did this vivid vision become in my mind, it felt as if the job was already done !
One evening two years ago I saw a photograph in a book on South African bulbs which showed glorious flamboyant flowers growing alongside and reflected in a shallow stream. We had been several times to see these magnificent floral displays in the wild but had never witnessed the effect that water could bring. It was a lightbulb moment, as I realised I could recreate a version of the South African garden I had made at the Garden House (pictured here) which I had been so sad to leave behind.
It would give me a chance to plant an area to produce the vivid seasonal colours so beloved by Ros in her paintings. This time this new South African style garden would have in a setting which was more truthful to the original and with running water adding a new dimension. It would be a little less brash than that first attempt, maybe embracing elements of other areas in South Africa or in California (as in photos here).
Both of us were immediately sold on the concept and the natural swimming pool idea was instantly ditched. The large pond was immediately filled in. In its place I have dug out a sinuous water course that will eventually when finished be shallow and crystal clear so the stones can be seen beneath the surface. The water will be filtered and pumped further up the slope where it will emerge as if from a spring, before descending through a series of ponds and waterfalls. All around this watercourse we will make sand beds which will be topped off in stone rubble so that the plants will look as if they are growing out of nothing but sand or stone (as in pictures here) from plants growing in the wild.
This stone rubble topping will ensure the whole area remains quarry-like and natural in the colder months of the year whilst providing a counterpoint to the vibrancy of the flowers in the warmer months. Ros’ love of colour will be reflected with low- growing vibrant red, orange and yellow flowers set amongst calming silver sub-shrubs on the lowest areas near the water. As the slopes get steeper the plant palette will change to incorporate taller kniphofias, dieramas, agapathus and watsonias, in pastel shades of pink, blue and soft oranges, all nestling amongst silver leaved shrubs. Further banks will be covered in alpine plants. There will be seats a-plenty, tucked into places where the views open up in front of you.
The hope and plan is to build a two-tier pavilion which will be the centrepiece and focal point for the whole garden. Overlooked by nobody and nestled into the side of the hill it has been designed so that it forms a refuge from the elements on two levels. The lower one opens out facing south onto the semi-arid landscape of the watercourses and the sand beds and should be a magical place to sit on sunny days listening and watching the water sparkle in front of you with reflections all around on any of our open days.
Above and opening out in all directions the respite pavilion will command an elevated overview as well as completely different prospects from each compass point. It is this top pavilion that has the potential for modification for exclusive respite use at some point in the future.
On this higher level on its northern side, the building will also incorporate a peaceful, covered seating area looking out onto another section of garden nestled amongst a silver birch woodland. Images of what these pavilions will look like are shown here
I am always excited by a new piece of garden about to be made, but I can honestly say, I have never in the nearly 50 years I have been making gardens been so excited by a garden idea or so sure of its outcome as this one. It encompasses everything I have been striving to achieve in a garden design in all that time but have never managed to totally achieve before. It has sculptural form, textures, running water, flowers displayed in a setting reminiscent of their wild origins and natural groupings of appropriate trees.
It will be calming, peaceful and at times flamboyant, all wrapped up in a natural-looking setting. The silver birch woodland which sits comfortably on the steep shaley slopes all around provide a wonderful backdrop as well as a refuge for many small birds. A restful, wildlife haven then, but also, a unique glorious garden unlike any you will have seen before. A tribute to a very special, gifted human being and I hope a solace to many others.
Why ask for financial help now ?
Ros and I had hoped to create this garden over the next few years as and when we could afford to. With Ros no longer with us, half the workforce is now gone, and the cost of keeping the garden up together will significantly increase. I will make every possible effort to continue to open the garden as we have been doing in recent years and as long as the income from garden visitors pays for this extra help then I will be able to do so. Unfortunately the revenue from garden opening will not cover these extra maintenance charges and the costs involved in making a major new part of the garden.
What will the money go towards ?
I already have many of the plants ready to plant this garden up. I estimate the extra costs involved in making this tribute garden to be between £15,000 – £20,000. This includes installing an electricity supply, pond liners, pumps and filtration systems for the water features; materials and any extra labour required for the construction of the 2-storey pavilions and 80 tonnes of sand needed for the central sand beds.
It will take at least as much again to upgrade the basic structure pavilions to make the top pavilion suitable for use as a year-round respite centre. These extra costs involve glazing, plumbing, insulating, solar panels, heating, etc as well as equipping the room and finishing it to a standard suitable for respite use.
Any funds received will go into a separate account for the sole purpose of initially making this tribute garden and then hopefully on towards creating the cancer respite facility.
If you would like to donate you can do so by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/keith-wiley
Or by cheque payable to :- Keith Wiley and send to :- Wildside Nursery, Green Lane, Buckland Monachorum, Devon. PL20 7NP
Or by Bank Transfer Account Name : Wildside Nursery Account no : 53145972 Sort code : 20-50-40
Thank you for taking the time to read this far, and I hope you may one day be able to visit Wildside on one of our open days to see for yourself what an amazing space this tribute garden will hopefully become.