Cast of BBC’s ‘Road to Santiago’ officially open ‘Rias de Galicia: A Garden at the End of the Earth’ at RHS Hampton
Following the success of the BBC TV series, which saw a cast of seven including actor Morrissey, TV reporter Rowe and Radio 2/Gogglebox vicar Bottley tackle a 780km pilgrimage across northern Spain in 15 days, this acknowledged their contribution to raising the profile of the Camino and Northern Spain as a visitor destination.
The breath-taking Atlantic coast of north-west Spain has been brought to life in the show garden collaboration between the Spanish Tourist Office, Tur Galicia and Rose McMonigall.
The garden, which scooped a silver RHS medal, evokes the extraordinary landscape of the Rías De Galicia; the estuaries on the rugged Galician coast. Secluded coves are dotted throughout this region and McMonigall celebrates these coastal havens, their wild flora and the local tradition of shell-cladding, as well as giving a nod to the delicious local seafood.
Visitors are transported to a small cove, sheltered by two coastal pine trees. A path winds up from the beach, past a crumbling sea wall, through a selection of salt-resistant shrubs, rock plants and flowering grasses, to a weather-beaten fisherman’s cottage. Traditional Galician cooking pots act as plant containers filled with bay and geranium, and a pantiled roof is weighed down with stones to protect it from the Atlantic gales. A rock pool nestles in the boulders filled with colourful pebbles and shells. In the shallows, a small fishing boat is beached, ready for its next trip out to harvest the rich abundance of seafood of the Rías De Galicia.
The garden’s backdrop depicts distant hazy mountains of Finisterre, the final destination for many pilgrims on the Way of St James, using a panelled art installation filled with scallop shells to form an impressionist collage. Historically, the walls of buildings in the region were often clad in porous scallop shells to reduce humidity inside. The scallop shell is the sacred icon of the pilgrims on the nearby Camino to Santiago de Compostela and is the symbol of St James himself.
Shells are scattered on the beach and traditional mussel baskets, nets and Galician lobster pots are in the boat and undergrowth.
Although the garden evokes the spirit and romantic beauty of Galicia, it uses plants which can be easily bought in the UK, so ideal for show-goers to use in their own outdoor spaces. Succulents such as sedums (stonecrop), saxifrage (rockfoils) and sempervivum (houseleeks) feature with eryngium (sea hollies), armeria maritima (sea thrifts), stipa (grasses), plus rosemary, thymes, fennels, tansy and tamarisk. Many plants growing in Galicia also thrive quite happily in sheltered parts of the UK.
Designer Rose McMonigall said, “I was inspired by my visits to Galicia to paint a picture of an idyllic scene, a secluded beach on the Atlantic coast, glimpsed through pine trees, with the ultimate hideaway of a fisherman’s cottage nestled amid the wild-looking vegetation.”
Javier Piñanes, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in London said, “In partnership with the region of Galicia, we are delighted to be collaborating with RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and garden designer Rose McMonigall this year. Galicia is a very unique, spiritual and cultural destination with an outstanding coastline strung with dramatic cliffs and pretty fishing ports. The interior offers a labyrinth of valleys and hills and is one of Spain’s most green and vibrant regions. We are excited to be bringing a slice of Galicia to London this year and look forward to showcasing some of the highlights at the Flower Show.”