Images by B. Alter: The Green & Black's Rainforest Garden
At the Chelsea Flower Show it's a tale of two gardens. One is small, green, and won a Gold medal. The other is big, colourful and got a Silver. Both have been designed with indigenous and community groups and deliver a powerful message.
The Green & Black's Rainforest Garden was created with the help of four Cameroon women. It is the first time that indigenous people have come to Chelsea to make a garden. It is green and overgrown and has a mongulu (leaf house) in the middle. It is meant to draw attention to the loss of the rain forest due to mining and logging.
Cameroon Women Visit Chelsea
Indigenous people in the Cameroon used to be hunters and gatherers but with the loss of their lands through the encroachment of mining and logging, they have been forced to turn to cultivation to feed their families. Now they are growing their own foods such as cassava, bananas and maize.
The garden has a large fig tree to provide a canopy, as the rainforest does, along with vines and passion flowers which are typical to the area. The whole creation consists of layers and shades of different greens. Nestled amongst the greens a mining helmet, gun and chainsaw can be seen. These are a symbol of the destruction of their way of life.
The mongulu was made of 90 banana leaves. The women chopped them in fhe forest and shipped them here. However they arrived dried up and useless As one said: "It took us so much time to cut them in the forest, a whole day. Now they are dry we are not so happy." However replacements were found in the Canary Islands and sent to the Show just in time. The contradictions of show business....but the garden won a Gold medal.
The Eden Project: Places of Change
The Eden Project Places of Change garden is the biggest ever at Chelsea; taking up the space of three gardens and designed by a community. Working with Places of Change, a capital improvement programme funded by government agencies which seeks to improve services for people who are homeless, the Eden Project is building on last year's collaboration at Chelsea when they did a garden with prisoners and the homeless.
This year over 500 people were involved in the planning and development of the project. They came from homeless charities, community housing and supportive housing agencies and eight prisons. Many have received vocational training in woodwork, planting and other horticultural skills at community colleges during the course of the project so that they can receive formal certificates in order to get employment. In fact, an employers' fair is being organized on site.
The garden is divided into 5 different zones and each group had their own area and theme to plan and build. The plants were grown in hostels and on empty plots across the country; trees were donated from cemeteries in East London. In the Food area, a shed made out of recycled bottles is featured in the midst of an allotment garden with climbing vines and vegetables galore.
Recycled Washing Machines as Planters
The Industry zone has a barren area, a growing space and rows of plants. It is dominated by a bank of recycled washing machines which have been turned into a planter. There is a low fence made out of old plastic jugs which have been filled with different coloured water.
Doors Opening to the Future
The Senses area has different sensory experiences; with hard surfaces and scruffy areas symbolizing the difficult journey and doors ,surrounded by lush and colourful spring flowers, opening the way to the future.
The Health area has an eight foot high medicine man, planted with hundreds of medicinal herbs. The Environment zone has a woodman's shed out of old tree trunks in a forest-like setting.
Both gardens are an enlightening learning experience for the participants and the public.
More on Chelsea Flower Shows
Chelsea Flower Show Features Biodiversity As a Theme
Chelsea Flower Show Goes From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
Chelsea Flower Show Explores Climate Change
Chelsea Flower Show : Opening Day