As we’re all stuck at home for the moment, I thought it would be nice to take some virtual tours of lovely places. For today’s visit, we’re doing something a little bit different and taking a trip in our time machine. We’re going back to May 2007, when garden designer Sarah Eberle won a gold medal at RHS Chelsea for “600 Days with Bradstone”.

The garden, which also won Best in Show, was named after the hypothetical 600 days of an astronaut’s first mission to Mars. The idea was to realistically model what might be used in a future human habitation on Mars. The designer started thinking about a possible space garden in the late 1990s and liaised with ESA experts to learn about the scientific and environmental factors affecting a mission to Mars.

“We had to make many assumptions, but everything in the garden is based on real science.”

Sarah Eberle
600 Days with Bradstone 2
[Image credit: Ruth Lowry]

The garden was designed to be partially dug into the planet surface and to grow within a domed habitat, protected from the Martian environment. Its purpose is to provide astronauts with food and medicinal herbs, contribute clean air and water to the life support systems, and be a morale-boosting place to hang out when off duty. All the benefits of a garden of Earthly delights, on Mars.

“You have to consider colour, water and plant longevity. Also, how would someone feel for 600 days in space? I thought the feeling of seeing something growing would be most important.”

Sarah Eberle

The garden features red stones specially selected and quarried in Scotland for their similarity to the colours and textures of Martian rock. Paving throughout the garden echoes the scorched clay polygons of Alaska’s permafrost, which closely resemble patterns seen on Mars.  A wind turbine harvests energy from the 70mph winds.

600 Days with Bradstone 3
[Image credit: Ruth Lowry]

The garden is divided into two interlocking spaces. The front incorporates a spring where water forms a fine mist as it is pumped from beneath the permafrost. Steel masts carry robotic irrigation pods transfer water to the planting and pots below.

Chelsea Flower Show
[Image credit: Wendy Le Ber]

Pressed earth pots are filled with watercress and calendula, crops that can be grown and harvested quickly without disturbance to more long term planting involved in gaseous exchange. Carob trees provide an alternative to both cocoa and coffee, which would be difficult to grow in space. Varying types of chillies provide interest for the palate. Luxury food items such as pistachios and olives rub shoulders with curly kale, lettuces and wheat. Cacti are a low-maintenance choice for decorative planting.

600 Days with Bradstone 7
[Image credit: Ruth Lowry]

Plants with medicinal properties such as arnica and opium poppy serve double duty by offering up colour and healing beauty. Familiar plants that evoke memories of life back home on Earth are psychologically important to astronauts.

Plants are selected for three criteria: biomass needed for the provision of oxygen, medicinal and edible.

Sarah Eberle

The second area is for relaxation, with a hanging chair and a rest pod where astronauts can retire in order to maintain a natural 24-hour cycle, in a position designed to suit the lower gravity of the planet (which is a sixth that of Earth’s).

600 Days of Bradstone
[Image credit: Helen Marshall]

Lucky Martians!

hanging seat
[Image credit: Mark Thompson]