Catch up with one of our favourite bloggers, Geoff Stonebanks, creator and keeper of the award-winning Driftwood garden. Here he gives us an exclusive insight to the creation of his brand new Mediterranean themed area, and shares a snapshot of his time capsule for the future!
Creating a Mediterranean garden
Back in March 2021, I conceived the idea to create a sunken patio garden at the rear of the house by digging out the area on the left side of the garden and creating a Mediterranean area with drought tolerant plants, a collection of succulents and shrubs.
While doing this, we created rustic brick and old railway sleeper edging to replace the original raised wooden beds alongside the rear of the house and around the central steps, which had started to rot. The small patio by the green folly door was extended to meet the rear of the dug-out area which is secured, unusually, with 50 old railway sleepers on end.
At the onset of the work, a follower on Twitter said: “the destructive bit is terrifying – but then comes the creative bit”. How very true those words really are.
So, for 11 days in October, local landscaper, Dan Smith and his company, Ace Of Spades, worked their magic using my own design ideas to create an amazing space, bordered by upturned old railway sleepers. Dan navigated a mini digger through the left side of the house and excavated 4 skips of chalk and debris, creating the new sunken garden area.
I felt so sorry for his team as they then had to wheelbarrow all the debris down the steep drive to the waiting skips. More importantly, they then had to carry the 50 railway sleepers up the drive too. Landscaper Dan said: “Thanks Geoff, hope you enjoy the new area as much as we did building it. It looks amazing, can’t wait to see it in its full glory spring time“.
The completed space already looks amazing but will not show its true potential until next Spring, when it will be dressed with my large collection of succulents.
A facebook visitor and follower, Sacha Hubbard, posted on social media: “Anyone who hasn’t seen Driftwood but has read your posts, might think you’re Mr Manyacres! What you do with an average size modern garden plot is simply astonishing. I think a ‘How I did it’ book about your garden could be inspirational and valuable to so many people who don’t have a large garden but want to do something interesting with a relatively small space”.
The Driftwood garden time capsule
A friend suggested I bury a time capsule beneath the new patio paving. Spurred on by the idea, I purchased a capsule and set about asking people on social media what I should include inside. There is no date set to open it, so it’ll be discovered whenever anyone changes the garden in the future!
These are the items that made the final selection:
- Digital memory stick with images of the garden, media & award coverage, charity recognition, achievements, cake recipes, garden visitors and a pdf copy of Geoff’s book about the garden
- Current monetary coinage
- Covid-19 test kit and Frida Kahlo face mask
- Petrol receipt
- National Garden Scheme 2021 booklet, Driftwood on cover, scheme name badge and pin badge
- Macmillan Cancer Support biro, pin badge and 2019 trail booklet.
- Morrisons & Waitrose club cards
- Business cards: Geoff Stonebanks & Mark Glassman
- Lapel Remembrance poppy
- 3 packets of seeds
- Garden visitor’s favourite cappucino cake recipe
- Fingerprints, Geoff Stonebanks, Barbara Stonebanks (mother), Mark Glassman (partner) and pawprint of Chester the terrier
- Photo of John & Lois Starley, (Seaford residents) our most frequent paying garden visitors over the years!
- Copy of Geoff’s monthly gardening page ‘Bournefree’ from October 2021
- Copy of Geoff’s Argus weekly gardening column from 8th October 2021
- Copy of Geoff’s monthly Garden News column from September 2021
- Latitude and Longitude details of the house and the time capsule
- Digital stick with Latest TV Brighton gardening television features from 2014, filmed at Driftwood with Geoff, courtesy of Angi Mariani
- Midland Bank crown dated 4th August 1980, donated by Barbara Stonebanks
Visit Driftwood garden
After over 10 years of opening Driftwood garden to the public, I realised it was starting to become a chore to water so many containers of summer annuals. Watering them could take in excess of 5 hours from start to finish! At last count there were over 300 containers across the garden as a whole, with a heavy concentration on the back patio. This inspired the idea to design an attractive new ‘Mediterranean’ area, to reduce the need for so much water while still looking fantastic.
See the new look Driftwood in 2022. It’s listed in the National Garden Scheme’s handbook and will be open from 1st June to 31st July, by arrangement, and for the Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail on 23rd and 24th July. Full details on the website at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk
If you can’t make it in person, then view the whole design process from start to finish and keep up to date with daily videos on the garden development page of the website.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this update from Driftwood garden. Have you got big plans for your outdoor space? Explore the rest of the T&M blog for simple design tricks to transform your garden. Share your before and after pics with us via our social channels, or drop us a line via email.
Geoff Stonebanks was very lucky to be able to retire early from 30 years in Royal Mail back in 2004. He had 3 different careers with them first as a caterer, then manager of a financial analysis team and finally as an Employee Relations Manager and Personnel Manager. He sold up and moved with his partner to Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex in 2004 and now spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, featured on Gardeners’ World on BBC TV and finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016, he’s raised £164,500 for various charities in 12 years, £109,000 of that for Macmillan. In his spare time, he is also Publicity Officer for the National Garden Scheme in East & Mid Sussex. In 2023, Geoff was also crowned one of the 500 Coronation Champions.