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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chelsea Flower Show Opens with a Blast (of Wind)

by Bonnie Alter

que bee photo
Photo: B. Alter

This year's Chelsea Flower Show in London has been beset by a series of natural problems. First there was the unseasonable cold weather, then the unseasonable warm weather, then the rain drought. But opening day featured glorious sun and celebrities, albeit with gale force winds.

That didn't stop this year's show, now in its 98th year, from being as big (with 17 gardens competing for top prizes) and beautiful as ever. The themes: "wild" rather than formal, vertical green walls, lots of insect habitats, roof gardens and a series of 7 natural and sustainable small gardens. Where to begin...

edible bee photo
Photo: B. Alter

You can't miss the B&Q Garden as the spectacular green vertical wall rises to 9 metres. Beside it is an insect hotel which is 5 metres high. And then there is the field of herbs: everything in the entire garden can be eaten. B&Q (like Home Hardware) have done an excellent job of showing sustainability, with wind turbines, solar panels and water butts to collect rain water. Tomatoes and herbs cascade from the vertical wall. There are vegetable plots and culinary herbs as well as fruit trees and lime trees included in this sustainable wonder. It may be considered too corporate since it is pushing the B&Q company line, but it should win a Gold medal.... News Update: Gold Medal winner

new bank photo
Photo: B. Alter

The artistic and aesthetic favourite seems to be the Wild Garden sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada. Canadians can't take much pride in the splendour since there is not one aspect of Canadian content in it except our good old Canadian dollar. However, it was created by one of the eco gurus of the gardening world and it contains a recycled container that serves as an artist's studio, green roof, native plants combined with garden plants and a lovely stone wall with an insect hotel. It will be reconstructed and relocated to a Wetlands Centre after the show. Definitely a winner. News Update: Silver Gilt winner

veg planter photo
Photo: B. Alter

The M&G Garden consists almost entirely of planters that are filled with vegetables and herbs. It is a modern interpretation of the traditional kitchen garden. As well as having raised planters of fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers, there is a sitting area and a water feature. The raised beds are built from willow and topped with cedar. Cabbages mix with clematis, and beans with roses. It is a bit sprawling and seems crammed but the idea of updating the kitchen garden for modern use is good. News Update:Silver Gilt winner

perrier laurent photo
Photo: B. Alter

This has to be one of the loveliest gardens in the show. The Laurent-Perrier Garden--Nature & Human Intervention (love these conceptual/obscure titles) is the most elegant and sophisticated in design and planting. There is a delicate bamboo structure at the back with a long stream with rocks leading up to it. The flowers are a delicate planting of dusky pinks and browns and creamy colours, planted amidst 11 multi-stemmed trees. There are some huge sculptural stones which give it a Japanese feel, in keeping with the "pagoda" structure. News Update: Gold Medal winner

monaco garden photo
Photo: B.Alter

Here's a retro, super luxury and super glam garden from the Principality of Monaco. The Monaco Garden is a blast from the past when Chelsea consisted of high-end fantasy gardens (so what has changed?). It was conceived as a way to show how high density living ( Monaco is tiny) can be achieved through roof gardens and balcony gardens, fruit trees and green living walls. Love that swimming pool and the lilac lounge chairs--where is James Bond? News Update: Gold Medal winner

flying garden photo
Photo: B. Alter

The most controversial is the Irish Sky Garden, a bright pink pod known as the Wonkavator, containing plants that will be suspended 82 feet in the air from a crane. Created by Diarmuid Gavin, it's being called "lupins in the sky with Diarmuid" and only VIP's can take a ride, 8 at a time, in it. Helen Mirren has been in it, Gwyneth declined. Too gimmicky by far for many, Diarmuid is the bad boy of the gardening world--and relishes it. News Update: Gold Medal winner

More on Chelsea Flower Show
Cold Unseasonable Weather Affects Chelsea Flower Show :
Chelsea Flower Show Features Biodiversity As a Theme
Chelsea Flower Show Features Vegetables