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Sara Edwards’ IBC Pocket Forest Garden

Creating a plant and tree-filled garden in even the smallest of spaces

For her debut garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021, designer Sara Edwards is exploring and challenging conventional ideas of container gardening and thinking BIG - with her IBC Pocket Forest Garden.

Sara Edwards runs the No.30 Design Studio in Herefordshire, which was launched in 2019 following her success at RHS Malvern Spring Festival, when she won an RHS Gold Medal and Best in Category ‘Green Living Space Garden’ for her repurposed shipping Container Garden – ‘Defiance’. 

The IBC Pocket Forest Garden has been inspired by Sara’s love of the verdantly planted, towering balconies of Milan’s ‘Bosco Verticale’ designed by Boeri Studio.  Sara was also influenced by the planting methodology of Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki, which was instrumental in creating the concept of ‘Tiny Forests’ in small urban spaces.

At just 4 x 3 meters, Sara’s IBC Pocket Forest Garden demonstrates how even in the smallest of spaces, it is possible to create an urban pocket-sized forest, through creatively upcycling and re-purposing readily available, Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC). IBC, like pallets and shipping containers, are all part of global trading economy, but many more arrive in the country than ever leave, creating a surplus to demand, which are perfect for adapting in the trend of upcycling and reuse.

Repurposing plastic containers
Sara who studied Art & Design and has a First-class BA (Hons) in 3D Furniture Design and Making, cleverly repurposed the large plastic containers to create deep but compact, planting beds, which provide enough volume to hold a richly tiered planting scheme of trees, shrubs and ground cover. 

Sara has even repurposed the steel bases of the containers, to produce a stylish, urban steel bench on which to sit and enjoy the garden.

Sara’s Pocket Forest planting has large trees including Betula pendula, Sorbus aucuparia, Crataegus Malus Everest.  She has a middle storey of shrubs including Cornus sanquinea, and Viburnum opulus.    There is an underplanting and groundcover from a host of textured perennials including ferns Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance and filix-mas and grasses with Hakonechloa Macra, Carex testacea Prairie Fire, Asplenium scholopendrium and Brunnera macrophylla.

Wildlife pond
Sara has also adapted one of the containers to make a contemporary take on a wildlife pond, which features a collection of striking aquatic plants, including Caltha plaustris, Scirpus cernuus, Carex riparia and Typha gracilis.  

The result is a dramatic, tiny woodland garden that is both sustainable and attainable for those with even the smallest of outdoor spaces. The IBC Pocket Forest Garden provides a haven for wildlife and a sanctuary in which to sit and be immersed in nature.

Commenting Sara (right) said, “It is wonderful to be able to create my first garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Due to the changes this year, I’ve only had a couple of months to create the Garden, so I wanted to think big and push boundaries and to design a garden which challenged the usual small space container planting.” 

She continued, “I wanted to play with scale and therefore the planters, trees and shrubs are all very large and when you sit in the garden, it is completely immersive and feels as though you are sitting in a tiny glade, with narrow paths that overhang with branches. It is experimental and playful.  I really hope the idea is something people can try for themselves.”

Following RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the IBC Pocket Forest Garden, will once again be repurposed as Sara will be re-using some of the trees and plants to create a green and welcoming community space on the Foley Trading Estate in Herefordshire. For further details visit:



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