Chelsea 2019 is confident.
Climate change and the positive power of plants are key themes
We can’t go back and change the causes…
But horticulturists can change the ending…
A new more confident Chelsea is debating, discussing and demonstrating how horticulturists can tackle climate change, and create better lives for people living with depression and anxiety.
Mentions of climate change abound, naturalistic plantings and be seen in most show gardens, and there is a real celebration in the role that plants have in alleviating anxiety and boosting mental health.
Nettles, ragged robin and thistles abound, 5 years ago it would be unthinkable for such plants to be at Chelsea.
But this is a new, more confident Chelsea, it has found its voice.
And it is using it.
The RHS Back to Nature Garden is designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White.
This garden, contains everything my childhood revolved around, a stream and waterfall, places to paddle, places to build dams, logs to balance on and woodland paths to explore. There is even a stag horn oak clad tree house to explore and make camp HQ in…
The planting palette is subdued with greens and blues creating a calming space, with a boardwalk path.
The Resilience Garden by Sarah Eberle both celebrates the 100th birthday of the Forestry Commission, and explores how forests will need to change over the next 100 years to cope with a changing climate.
The garden builds on the work of William Robinson (1838-1935)
Robinson changed the way we garden, he popularised the English Cottage Garden; linking its principles to the search for honesty and simplicity of the arts and crafts movement.
Thanks to the work of Robinson, and the experiments he carried out in his own garden, Gravetye, we have the herbaceous border, perennial plantings, and the wild garden.
Robinson’s style was a revolution when considered against the backdrop of high Victorian style with carpet bedding and Italianate gardens, which he rallied against as a sham, preferring perennials, shrubs and climbers.
He also introduced the concept of rock gardens.
Robinson also pioneered the planting of woodlands for timber and left 400 Ha (1000 acre) of planted woodlands as pert of the Gravetye Estate to the Forestry Commission on his death in 1935.
While the garden is based on Robinson’s principles, it is also offering a similar revolutionary step change to explore how we can create resilient forests and landscapes.
Designer Eberle has considered the key impacts of a changing climate, while also factoring in new and evolving pest and pathogen risks.
The garden also creates wildlife habitats, to support natural biodiversity.
A key aspect to the garden, that should delight plant enthusiasts is the wide range of tree species being grown.
On a recent tree study day at Yorkshire Arboretum the curator Dr John Grimshaw posed the question,” what tree species would you select to plant here? When making your choice just consider the way the climate will change during the life of that tree.”
Planting a wide range of species is considered to the be the safest option; this also negates the risk of one dominant pathogen such as Xylella fastidiosa or Chalara Ash Dieback, caused by Chalara fraxinea and Hymenoschyphus pseudoalbidus.
The garden features a wide range of species, growing in several habitats, to represent the effects of a changing climate, including warmer, drier summers, warmer, wetter winters.
One of the current theories is that the more species a forest has the more resistant to threats that forest will be.
Genetic diversity = Resilience
The garden features a wide range of tree species including Ginkgo biloba, Araucaria araucana along with underplantings. (Just click here for a full plant list)
A dominant feature in the garden is an old grain silo, in which the forester lives, recording the health of the forest, and the biodiversity of the site.
Andy Sturgeon’s M&G garden showcases the incredible power of plant to heal, to restore damaged landscapes and to ultimately regenerate.
The garden is challenging.
It is sculptural, based on 15 tonnes of charred sustainable oak, which direct the garden, giving an apocalyptic feel. The plants are colonising, pioneer species.
The planting (click here for the full plant list) features Epilobium ‘fireweed’ and Polemonium caeruleum ‘Jacobs ladder’ the planting also includes hardy orchids such as Cypripedium ‘Slipper orchid’ as they can withstand harsh conditions.
Following a forest fire, leaving chards of charred timber, plants are colonising, regenerating, with pioneer species leading the way.
The garden features ironstone viewing platforms, along with chutes to carry water from zone to zone.