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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

At Chelsea Flower Show Small Gardens have Big Environmental Impact

by Bonnie Alter

change winds photo
Photo: B. Alter

There are other gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show besides the big, glitzy and expensive ones. There are small ones...

So give a Gold Medal to the Winds of Change urban garden which puts its reclaimed, industrial aesthetic first and foremost.

winds change photo
Photo: B. Alter

Its designer has a passion for reclaimed materials and created the garden around a focal point of home-engineered turbines made out of.big industrial cooling fans. He definitely makes a statement--they are unmissable. As is the only prison on site...the old steel shed has a door from a prison. A Victorian safe is used as a tool storage and the water butt is made out of old steel. The fencing is made out of recycled timber and the planting is loose and natural, with vegetables and a green roof.

wales portrait photo
Photo: B. Alter

This year there is a new category of garden: artisanal. By which they mean natural and sustainable. It is replacing what used to be called courtyard gardens and it is an interesting switch. The gardens are all charming: natural planting, lots of local and native plants, most use recycled materials and all have a cottage feel. However, after a while all seven seem much of the same.

The Postcard from Wales garden embodies the best of the genre. It depicts an old boathouse on the edge of a river; the old boat in the front is a particularly charming touch. The planting is gentle with alliums providing colour, rambling roses by the front door and hollyhocks against the recycled wood fencing, with bits of shells and beach combing findings strewn around. It won a Gold Medal.

lit garden photo
Photo: B. Alter

A Literary Garden is another charmer--it won a Silver Gilt award. Inspired and intended as a poet's retreat, the poems and verses have been hand-carved into the bench, bridge and sundial, all to make an atmosphere of reflection and quietude. The carving is done by a master carver who does each piece by hand. The planting style, again, is informal, overgrown, with lots of blue and cream.

korean loo photo
Photo: B. Alter

This Korean entrant, Hae-woo-so (Emptying One's Mind) is a bit of a variation: it depicts a traditional Korean toilet (what!). It seems that Korean people believed that going to the toilet was a "cathartic experience and considered it to be a highly spiritual natural cycle." Pictured is the outhouse, which is vintage and ramshackle looking. The planting is mainly green, with some wildflowers, artful pieces of driftwood and moss-covered stones. Winner of a Gold Medal (for shock value alone).

More on Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea Flower Show Opens with a Blast (of Wind)
Cold Unseasonable Weather Affects Chelsea Flower Show :
Chelsea Flower Show Features Biodiversity As a Theme
Chelsea Flower Show Features Vegetables