Case Study – Spark Gardens

3 min read

Scotland's Rural college at Scone
Spark Gardens – 24hr Party Planting

The inaugural Manchester RHS Urban Garden Show starred Amanda Grimes from Spark Gardens.

Harrowden / Turfonline supported Amanda as part of her “24HR Party Planting” garden. For the RHS Urban Show, Amanda created two beds inspired by pop culture, deeply rooted in Manchester’s music scene. Both installations were about giving new and inexperienced gardeners the confidence and inspiration to give it a go.

Reflecting the fact that gardens are rarely, if ever, ‘instant’ each installation came in three parts. The design repeated to illustrate the scheme at the time of planting, at one year on, and after two years. Not everything will ever be in flower or full growth either. Her approach aimed to show what to expect as a garden develops naturally over time. That a little planning and patience can create relatively low-maintenance, but high-interest planting.

24-Hour Party Planting

was a celebration of Manchester’s thriving nightlife, restaurant and entertainment scene. It picked up where Punk Rockery left off . Successfully referencing The Happy Mondays’ track of the same name, and with it the hedonistic days of the Haçienda. It traced that legacy through to 2024 and the incredibly diverse, vibrant energy of the Gay Village, Northern Quarter, Salford and beyond.


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Amanda was looking to generate interest in small gardens, balconies, roof terraces and indoor gardening. Using lots of lovely accessories, tools and funky workwear.

She used red brick rubble and green roof substrate with poor soil – to show that you don’t need perfect soil to grow a garden. Adopting easily sourced or reclaimed materials also served to add interest to the planting. The point being that good results weren’t dependent on lots of money or time.

Plants were shown at different stages of growth. Initially young and small with lots of space around them through to two-years old.  Successfully illustrating what to expect at each stage, to allow space for plants to fill out, and to foster patience.

Horticulturally, the scheme aimed to introduce novice gardeners to the idea of planting succession. In this way gardens can keep the ‘party’ going. One can have colour and texture now and in four months’ time. Evergreens can even bring something for the winter. Her planting aimed to be bold and colourful.

The design featured three levels of planting. It could be replicated as a whole, or in part. So the scheme was flexible enough for a range of spaces. Plants were suitable for containers, roof terraces and balconies as well as new urban gardens. They included bulbs, annuals and plants that worked well at dusk, attracted moths and looked good in garden lighting.

Amanda says: 

“I spent my childhood outdoors in the countryside – I had such freedom to go off and explore and was fascinated by plants and insects. I went on to art college and ended up working in advertising as a creative (copywriter), but I longed to be outside again, so I jumped ship and never looked back. My work is very much influenced by those early experiences of nature; I find natural landscapes endlessly inspiring – from boggy windswept moors to sun-baked Mediterranean hillsides – and try to distil their essence into my designs. My interest in modern art, music and theatre also throws a lot of inspiration into the mix.

Amanda’s also took time to pass on her top urban gardening tips.

  • Don’t fret over the traditional gardening advice you see on TV and in magazines – the chances are, your garden is not going to have decent soil, plenty of light or lots of space. There are alternatives, seek them out.
  • Use water to your advantage – it pours off your roof tops for much of the year, so don’t fight it, go with it and create a rain garden.
  • Find a local gardening or community garden group and enjoy learning from others; save money by swapping plants; get involved and create little plots of joy wherever you can.


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