The Chelsea Flower Show is the queen of all flower shows: the biggest, brightest and best gardens, designers and plants. But this year's show is reflecting the economy: there are fewer big show gardens, some sponsors have pulled out and ticket sales are down.
The poster girl for the new economy is Sarah Eberle. Her series of 3 "credit crunch" gardens is made from materials found in scrap yards and garbage dumps using pretty common plants which she had to "beg,borrow or steal." Total cost is £15,000--which is peanuts for a garden at Chelsea.
Sarah Eberle stepped in at the last minute to take the place of an Australian garden group which was forced to pull out after its plants were destroyed by the bushfires in Victoria, Australia.
She has called the three gardens The Overdrawn Artist's Garden, the Off-shore Garden and the Banker's Garden. She was looking for the "smile factor", a light-hearted approach--not great design statements.
She has built the gardens as cheaply as possible. In the Overdrawn Artist's Garden, she used cast-offs from the local scrap yard. The paving is the focal point. It is constructed from steel grids which are filled with sand, gravel and crushed CDs. Out of this she has constructed an urban scene which includes the London Eye and other familiar shapes. A bench is made out of an old sewing machine table, a wall inset out of old tools. The planting includes vegetables and wild flowers, in keeping with the theme.
The Banker's Garden is a bit of fun. What do unemployed bankers do in their spare time? They control...so this one is very formal, and includes a Monopoly game theme, with flower planting colour coded to the different streets in the game and complete with cars, boats and other houses to purchase. The garden furniture is shaped like a dice and shaker. The entrance reflects "go to jail" and the fencing design is in the shape of percentage signs, something that bankers know about. In the middle is a parking spot--for rent of course.
The Off-Shore garden is minimalist, complete with a moat, to keep the taxman at bay. This one is Japanese in feel, with its architectural planting and stepping stones. The garden can be filled with water collected from the rooftop, and the lucky owner can play with his remote-controlled boats in the pool.
Eberle doesn't consider herself a rural or environmental gardener; most of her designs are very urban. But she commented that this has been an enlightening venture for her. She won the Best in Show award two years ago. This time her garden may not win a prize but it is garnering a lot of attention as her themes reflect the ethos of this year's show. RHS Chelsea Flower Show
More on the Chelsea Flower Show
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Chelsea Flower Show: Opening Day 2008
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Chelsea Flower Show: Opening Day 2007