‘The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen’

Company: Joe Perkins Design

Landscape architect Joe Perkins’ inspiration for this project was the rugged coastline of the Basque Country in Northern Spain and he uses layered rock formations to reference this.

The garden seeks to be a representation of the variety of coastal habitats, not just the Basque Country, but across the globe. Subsequently, plants from all over the world will feature with the common denominator being that they have developed to grow in a coastal environment.

The coastal habitat is one of the richest and most diverse habitats where many species can thrive. These landscapes are constantly changing and evolving, creating  opportunities for interaction and co-existence.

The Facebook Garden: Beyond The Screen celebrates the people finding common ground through Facebook and driving offline change in their communities. As a result, a single thread of water will flow between the different elements of the garden representing how social media helps to connect our on and offline worlds.

Key Plants

Representing the foreshore, look out for Crambe maritima (sea kale), a species of halophytic flowering plant that grows wild along the coasts of Europe, from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea. It’s a mound-forming, spreading perennial with large fleshy glaucous collard-like leaves and abundant white flowers. This plant, related to the cabbage is cultivated as a vegetable and    often found along the coast of England, where it is commonly found above high tide mark on shingle beaches. The shoots are served like asparagus, steamed with either a béchamel sauce or melted butter, salt and pepper. Joe will be using this plant in combination with Leucophyta brownii (Australia), with its hair-like leaves designed to reduce water loss and stand up to windy conditions, and Leymus arenarius (Lyme grass), native to Atlantic and Northern European coasts with attractive steely blue swordlike foliage to provide contrasting textures and form.

Other specialist foreshore plants include European beach grass, Ammophila arenaria, a clump-forming, semi-evergreen, perennial grass with vigorous, creeping rhizomes which form a sturdy anchor in shifting sands. The rhizomes tolerate salt water and will float allowing the plant to establish at new coastal sites. 

Last seen at Chelsea on the Massachusetts garden in 2013, Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear) is endemic to Northeastern USA and Canada. It grows on sandy soils and rocky outcrops. Opuntia humifusa is easy to grow and the most suitable Opuntia for British conditions. Yellow flowers appear in early summer and are followed by edible prickly pears.

Cliff Planting

Centranthus ruber (red valerian) is a woody-based perennial, sometimes grown as a biennial, with grey-green leaves and dense clusters of crimson, pink or white, slightly fragrant flowers from late spring to autumn.  Crithmum maritimum is a fleshy perennial herb of spray-drenched rock crevices and ledges on sea-cliffs, coastal rocks and on stabilised shingle; also in artificial habitats like harbour walls and stone sea defences. These plants appealed to Joe because of their ability to flourish in the most extreme of coastal environments. He will use them in the crevices and spaces between the rock outcrops in the garden in combination with Sedum palmeri from Mexico and S. spathuifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ from coastal Oregon.

Statement Plants

Agaves are striking architectural plants which grow in both high and coastal desert regions.  Mexican native, Agave horrida offers glossy green foliage with a striking    symmetrical rosette if planted in well drained soil. Agave victoriae-reginae is a small species noted for its streaks of white on sculptured geometric leaves and cream flowers. Popular as an ornamental. It is cold-hardy as agaves go, and thus finds favour as a small accent in many more northern climates but recommended in the UK that this plant be kept in heated conditions under glass during winter. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

An odd looking succulent, Aeonium arboreum has long, arching stems and rosettes of leaves that can look so perfect, you could mistake them for being fake. It has bright green rosettes which Joe will use to great effect in the foreshore area alongside the felty-leaved Ballota pseudodictamnus and the white Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia    maritima ‘Alba’.

Joe has chosen several varieties of Euphorbia, which can be annuals, perennials, shrubs or succulents. Milky sap and small flowers held within cupped, often colourful bracts are key features.  Euphorbia x pasteurii, a large evergreen shrub, is a cross between E stygiana and Euphorbia  mellifera and takes the best attributes from both its parents. It forms a pleasing rounded shape and has slender, dark green leaves with white mid ribs, which take on red hues in autumn. Flowers are bronze/green and sweetly scented. Grow in well-drained soil in a Mediterranean style or gravel garden. Always wear gloves when working with euphorbias as the milky sap is a skin irritant!

Euphorbia dendroides (tree spurge) is a small tree-like form that grows in semi-arid and      mediterranean climates,  sensitive to frost, it only grows on protected and sunny mountainsides in hilly areas. This bush also has uses in traditional medicine; the sticky sap has been used to treat   various skin conditions since ancient times. Euphorbia oblongata is considered by many to be amongst the best-looking, longest-flowering foliage plants available anywhere in the world!  Joe has selected them for their brilliant acid-green flowers and bold, strong shapes.

Agapanthus africanus (African Lily) is a blue or white flowering plant from the genus       Agapanthus native to the area of Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. It has a short stem bearing a tuft of long, narrow, arching leaves and a central flower stalk  ending in an umbel of 20-30 white, or bright blue, funnel-shaped flowers. It was introduced to Europe at the close of the 17th century and will not tolerate extended freezing   temperatures.

The garden colour palate is essentially green, yellow and white with accents of blue, although a hint of red or orange may creep in! Texture is courtesy of grey foliage shrubs suited to bright sunlight, they are also drought and salt resistant, perfect for the coastal setting. Architecturally, the  boundary is imagined as an informal shrub planting going from the coastal area to a more dense, further inland environment.

Large Shrubs include several Mrytles, which are evergreen shrubs or small trees with aromatic, leathery leaves and solitary, bowl-shaped white flowers followed by fleshy, often edible berries. Metrosideros excelsa (New Zealand Christmas tree) is a coastal evergreen tree in the myrtle family that produces a brilliant display of reddish flowers made up of a mass of    stamens. This species is renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive even perched on rocky, precarious cliffs, it has found an  mportant place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty.   Myrtus communis, (common myrtle) is a bushy medium-sized evergreen shrub with small, aromatic, ovate leaves and profuse white flowers followed by purplish-black berries.  

Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' (purple hop bush), an evergreen shrub with slender oval purple-red leaves, flowers in summer, producing clusters of greenish-pink flowers that look rather like hops. Native to sub-tropical and temperate regions. Mature height and spread after 10-20 years can be  4m x 2.5m  but the Chelsea specimens will be around 2-3m tall


Two Pinus Sylvestris have been chosen for their character, rugged imperfections and interesting shapes. One will weigh in at over 4m and the other over 6m. They will be planted towards the back of the garden indicating a change of habitat from the more specialised foreshore area

Multi stems include, Pistacia lentiscus (mastic), a dioecious evergreen shrub or small tree of the pistacia genus growing up to 4 m tall which is cultivated for its aromatic resin, mainly on the Greek island of Chios.It resists heavy frosts and grows on all types of soils, and can grow well in limestone areas and even in salty or saline environments, making it more abundant near the sea.

The garden will be built by Chelsea veteran contractor The Outdoor Room and will be          relocated to provide a physical space where people can connect around shared passions or     interests. National charity Groundwork will be assisting Joe with the garden build and      planting. The charity works with young people in the most disadvantaged parts of the UK to transform lives in the communities around them, improve their prospects and to live and work in a greener way.

Kelways Plants are growing the plants for the garden and Deepdale Trees are supplying Joe with the trees.

Joe Perkins, landscape architect, said: “I’m really looking forward to using such a varied and eclectic mix of plants to demonstrate the diverse and specialised range of habitats found in temperate maritime regions around the world. Many of these plants have developed very specialised ways of coping with windy and often salt laden conditions where water is not always abundant. As a community of plants, they are a sort of metaphor for the global online shared interest communities made possible through social media”

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