The Night Sky Garden: Chelsea Flower Show 2014 | The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Night Sky Garden


Astronomy Garden

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I love attending garden tours and shows. This past summer, I was entranced by an astronomy garden called “The Night Sky” at a garden show.

As soon as I saw “The Night Sky” garden, I couldn’t wait to share with Almanac readers. Some of you may recall our story, “Create an Astronomical Garden,” from The 2012 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Not only might you all appreciate the stargazing theme, but I think many of us feel that the best gardens get us closer to nature, not farther away; this garden does just that …  

Night Sky Garden Pictures

One of this garden’s themes is the spiraling Milky Way and, though it’s difficult to show in a picture, there are cobblestone paths that swirl outward from a central area. To some viewers, it seemed star-shaped.

Natural oak benches within the walls provide places to rest. My understanding is that there are cutout stars at the base of the benches that shine at night! I would loved to have seen this garden in the evening as twilight approached.

An oak and glass structure features a spiral staircase up to a roofstop to view the night sky.

I loved the armillary sphere sculpture.

It reminds me of our Almanac Sun sculpture on our lawn in New Hampshire! See below. This Sun sculpture which was created in the 1950s and actually casts a shadow on the inside of the rings to indicate the time.

Fortunately, I arrived so early that the designers’ mother and father were there and actually let me step inside their creation! Their sons, Harry and David Rich from Rich Lanscapes, are the young designers. Their garden is inspired by the dark skies of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, one of only five International Dark Sky Reserves in the world—perfect for discovering the wonders of the night sky.

As I walked further into The Night Sky garden, silver birch trees create a glistening canopy that leads to a grassy bowl for stargazing. I can imagine wandering down the cobblestone path as it opens up to the twinkling stars and shooting meteors against the black velvetyness of space.

Boulders representing meteorites are scattered throughout the garden, giving it a sense of gravity.  Two reflecting circular pools represent black holes, mirroring the sky above. 

Of course, this garden is designed to be enjoyed in the daytime, too!

Plant Choices

Soft, swirling flowers such as white foxglove, starlight, white astrantia, aquilegia, ammi majus (Bishop’s flower), misty lace, and glittering white cloud grasses echo the starry night. The naturalistic planting is dominated by white with hues of blues, purples, and oranges echoing the path of the Milky Way.  As you walk through the landscape, it sets a tranquil feeling with a sense of wonder.

The white foxglove is my favorite; it has some vertical height and your eye follows its line around the garden. 

I loved the oak studio! The glass panes gave it an indoor/outdoor feeling. The designers let me climb up the spiral staircase to the rooftop. 

The rooftop was even fitted with a telescope to view the night sky. Their father informed me that this brass telescope was from Philadelphia —and said welcomed any information about it as he bought it online. I noticed that the maker of the telescope was “Queen-Gray Company” and after a little research, discovered that this company was founded in 1850 and specialized in scientific equipment. 

What happens to these show gardeners after the show is over? As garden designers, the Rich brothers aim to raise awareness of light pollution and planned to relocate their garden—complete with oak studio—-to a college dedicated to students with autism to enjoy the sensory aspects of gardens.

So, what did YOU think of the Night Sky Garden? Did you “Ooh!” and “Aah!”? Please share your comments below! I’d love to hear what you think!

See a video about the Night Sky Garden here.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann