PICTURES AND VIDEO: Northamptonshire’s renewable energy powered garden

We visit Shaun Heasman’s garden in the height of spring and what better time to do so.

The place abounds with exotic plants, colourful flowers, and features an eye-catching water piece - but most astonishing of all is the fact it is the way it is thanks to renewable energy.

Shaun Heasman and mum Sheena

Shaun Heasman and mum Sheena

Former chef Shaun works for Northampton-based Opus Energy as a renewables expert and he used all of his knowledge to support his off the grid garden at his parents home in Roade.

His mum Sheena remembers when she and her husband Trevor moved into the house 40 years ago, recalling a garden that was so overgrown it was near impossible to open the back gate.

But in its current guise – and thanks to the Heasmans green thumbs – it has been transformed into a backyard perfect for parties as testified by the numerous family engagement and wedding celebrations held there.

It even has an outdoor kitchen powered entirely by solar power.

“I find gardening addictive,” said Shaun, who upcycles old PC parts and plant pots as continuously finds new ways to improve the backyard.

“I’m out here until it gets dark. If I sit down and relax I start thinking ‘I need to change this and that’.”

“I also love to cook and entertain,” added 42-year-old Shaun, who moved back to Northamptonshire after helping a friend set up a restaurant in Montpellier in France.

The centrepiece of this eco-friendly, solar powered garden is the aforementioned water feature - home to 11 fishes and with a self-regulating pump.

To keep the flowers watered and fed, Shaun – who is fond of gadgets – has hooked up the irrigation system to a weather app which helps determine how much or little watering is required.

Two greenhouses support floral life all year round thanks to Shaun’s cunning engineering. He’s currently growing 150 geraniums which will be sold at adult day care centre Brixworth Nursery Farm where he regularly volunteers.

A solar panel on the roof of the greenhouse charges a mobility scooter battery, which drives a recycled computer fan that sucks hot air from the top of the greenhouse into a heatsink hole filled with stone and broken glass.

As the hot air rises from the hole it cools the air that comes into the greenhouse via a vent.

At night, the temperature is kept even by the warmth in the heatsink passing up through a vent and into the greenhouse.

On the day of our visit, we were lucky – or perhaps in a way unlucky – to catch a glimpse and a whiff of a dragon lily. 

The purple flower emits a very unpleasant smell reminiscent of rotting flesh in order to attract flies for pollination so we don’t hang around it for two long, despite its striking beauty.

Our afternoon in Shaun’s green – in every sense of the word – was on the other hand, quite the opposite of unpleasant.