Behind the Scenes - How Planty Jane is bringing the RWA forecourt into bloom

Behind the Scenes - How Planty Jane is bringing the RWA forecourt into bloom

With our reopening just around the corner and Spring in full force, we couldn't think of a better time to take you behind the scenes of our new planting design for our transformed forecourt with garden and planting designer Jane Porter.

The brief: We commissioned Jane to create a planting design that helps capture the welcoming spirit of the Light and Inspiration Project, whilst complementing our historic building. With the RWA open all year and the plant beds easily accessible, we wanted the planting to be sensory, eye-catching and inviting to visitors and wildlife throughout the seasons. The British weather is famously unpredictable, so we tasked Jane with planting that was drought tolerant and low maintenance, ensuring the RWA site looks beautiful whatever the weather. Briefing over we waited for Jane's plans to bring the forecourt into bloom.An illustrated diagram of plants throughout the yearJane's concept was inspired by the planting of the High Line in New York, designed by Piet Oudolf and prairie style schemes. The designs included ornamental grasses and hot hued flowers. Two beautiful Amelanchier trees sit on either side of the step access, welcoming visitors up and into the building. Jane described them as "the perfect choice for this site – they stand up well to being containerised and they offer visual change throughout the seasons – from profusions of pale pink blossom in Spring, berries for birds all summer and bold Autumn colour.

A collection of images showing the High Line, flowers and insects
Over the next few weeks the foundations on the forecourt will be finished and the beautiful final stones laid, meaning we are nearly ready for Planty Jane to come and work her magic! The RWA is for the people of Bristol, and Jane has echoed this ethos in her plant choices, including two flowers specific to Bristol: 'The Bristol Onion' Allium sphaeracephalon and ‘Flower of Bristol’ Lychnis chalcedonica. And Jane even popped in stunning ‘Artist’ tulip cultivar as a nod to not only the artists in our exhibitions but the future artists that the RWA is supporting by lighting up lives with art over the South West.

I think of it as nature bursting through cracks in the paving.

An image of the RWA forecourt in development

Follow the RWA on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to see updates on the forecourt and all the other exciting building developments, ready for our grand reopening in May. You can follow Jane's amazing planting plans for this year including her own garden in the container category at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show on her Instagram page - PlantyJane. Thank you so much to Jane for sharing her process, we can't wait to see the final result! 

An architects drawing of the RWA with planting design

We are so grateful for all the support on our transformational project, making the RWA the most accessible gallery between St Ives and London. Find out more about The Light and Inspiration Project. 


Image credits: 1, 2, 3 Jane Porter, 4 RWA building progress March 2022