Chelsea Flower Show Blooms in Drought


The Chelsea Flower Show is the queen of them all, with 150,000 people, show gardens, city gardens, chic gardens and courtyard gardens and 150 nurseries showing their wares. This year’s theme is saving water because there is a drought in south-east England. The Royal Horticultural Society has sunk a bore hole (as have the Queen and Elton John) to provide water for the plants. But beyond this, there is little evidence that awareness of ecological issues, conservation and environmentally-friendly ideas have infiltrated thinking to a serious extent. These gardens are about being inspired and amazed by the extravagant plantings, lap pools, sculptures and outrageous excesses that come together to make a spectacular, award-winning show garden.

The major exception is GardenAfrica, an inspiring ramshackle affair made from red Cornwall clay, medicinal plants borrowed from the Eden Project and old rubber tires from the local garbage dump. All the plants are used in southern African community gardens to help people with HIV/Aids. While some gardens can cost up to £500,000, this one cost less than £10,000 and is no less charming for it. The Jane Goodall Institute was the inspiration for a roof garden which attempts to be a green, micro-environment with solar panel screens, and a tank for collecting rainwater, disguised as a stainless steel bench. The Gorilla Garden creates the impression of an African rainforest, complete with a covered veranda at the rear. Interestingly, all of the plants and materials from it will be recycled and used in the new permanent gorilla exhibit at the London Zoo. :: Royal Horticultural Society