Time to get fresh at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

Time to get fresh at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

Unlike the Show gardens and the Artisan gardens, the Fresh category at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show gets a little complicated. Where I can explain to you the designs and themes of those gardens, the ‘fresh’ have a mind and soul of their very own: each one provoking introspection, opinion and often some consternation!

The RHS explains the ‘fresh’ gardens: “These gardens may embody an idea or concept, embrace new technology, trends and materials.”

So what can we expect to find in this category?

Thinking of Peace garden

Thinking of Peace garden

Beautifully illustrated this garden oozes peace and tranquility; with its curtain of water and reflective pool I think we’d all like to be sitting under that tree. Designer Tatyana described the water feature to me as being like “happy weightless rain …this is something inspired by morning dew when the sun hits it. It is the joy of being in the warm rain when it is sunny outside. Children run and scream and dance under the rain. And then the rainbow comes out … the water drops sparkle in the sun hanging on tree branches … this sort of feeling.”

Pure poetry and Tatyana captures that delicious sensation of being in warm rain on a sunny day. The pretty colour palette of the planting gives us the rainbow seen through water droplets and there is a dreamlike quality to the scene. Let’s hope the sun shines on Tatyana’s garden.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden

Breakthrough Breast Cancer garden

My father in law, retired scientist Prof. Ken Ashbee, has always had a strong interest in the double helix so I am looking forward to seeing how the DNA helix is used in the Breakthrough Breast Cancer garden designed by Ruth Wilmott. Ruth lost her sister-in-law to breast cancer just last year and has been helping to raise funds for this Charity. Ruth told me that she loves representation of DNA and likes that her garden blends art with science.

Ruth wants to bring a “contemporary fresh slant” to her planting scheme with pretty shades of pink, white and green, creating a dreamlike quality; the planting weaves through what appears to be quite a classical design, with a sculpture by Rick Kirby. Pink has been out of favour with many designers so Ruth hopes to give it a new lease of life.

Pools of water ripple every 10 minutes, depicting how often someone in the UK discovers they have breast cancer. This is the area that Ruth is most concerned about and the process of creating the curved path, the water pools and the ripple effect is taking up most of her time. Ruth explained, “The garden is so interlinked between these components as it is made of the DNA curves and despite the simplicity of the layout it’s a complicated design which is very precise in the detail. A bit like DNA really.”

This garden will be a poignant one for many visitors.

National Schools’ Observatory : Dark Matter garden

National Schools’ Observatory: Dark Matter garden

There are many scientific themes in this year’s Fresh gardens and this one, designed by Howard Miller, takes us to the dark side…

Howard’s design will try to explain the theory of the universe: no small feat. An exploration of the effect of Dark Matter on light, steel rods represent the bending of light and grasses move continuously with life. The planting scheme of bright green, rusty tones and yellows give this design a zing which I think will work brilliantly with the steel rods and I like the idea of the viewer being able to look through the ‘oculus’ at one end of the garden, down through the planting. Whether we will all understand the theory of the universe a little more…? Luckily there will be two Astrophysics Professors at the show to explain the scientific concepts to anyone interested. Phew!

So what is Howard’s favourite part of the design? “There’s a part where all the elements are in close proximity and I have a mental image of how it will look and am very excited to see it in the flesh. It’s the bit where the paving made from steel reinforcement bars splay out from the planter, and then turns into a seat - I have a vision of really intricate planting creeping through the bars and of it having this very lush, shady, timeless feel where time stands still.”

” The thing I am most worried about is the warped lattice - definitely a headache. I was at a specialist factory recently where we were running tests using a robotic pipe-bending machine that we hoped would be able to take our 3D computer model and just magically spit out our warped lattice. Alas, that would be too good to be true - the machine is definitely capable of making what we have designed, but every curve and angle has to be inputed into the machine manually as computer code… which I can tell now is going to be a very tedious and laborious job.”

Fernando garden (name tba)

Keeping us curious with, as yet, no name for this garden, designer Fernando Gonzalez has created ’ a poetic garden that will combine the lyricism of Mediterranean natural planting with digital design’.

A design with perhaps the most interesting of structures, made of curving white jesmonite, this garden wraps around the garden to create a calm space. With height from trees and some pretty perennial planting in shades of blue, white and green, visually this garden is striking.


**Beyond our Borders garden**

Beyond our Borders garden

For her second garden at this year’s Chelsea, Sarah Eberle takes on the pathogens! Sarah will create a mini botanical garden complete with sentinel trees which record effects of pathogens on other species. Plants will be labelled with their botanical name and divided into three climatic zones (arid, tropic and Australasia) with planting to suit.

The fun part will be the slinkies… Sarah explained their role to me,

“I am very happy with the slinkies, which should be fun! They represent the pathogens and some will be easy to see and others hard to find; they will cascade from the zones to the beach at the ocean edge and will continue through the water as blue chase lights. ”

This garden intends to inform as well as cause some smiles and the message Sarah is evoking is an important one for the global future of our plant and animal life.

The Water Station garden

The Water Station garden

I really like the open design of this garden and I think it’s important for viewers to know that it is designed to be a part of a larger urban landscape - a central meeting point or breathing space from a busy office life. The planting includes lots of grasses to soften the hard lines of stone and the central feature well is a carved flower which is designer Borut Benedejčič’s favourite part of the design. Borut described it: ” Stone decking in a shape of a heartbeat reminds us of the importance of balance and rituals in life. Decking surrounds the well (which is in a shape of a symmetric flower bud) and gives an impression as if the well is grown from this feeling. The well also contains water which is the main matter even if it is not so obvious but hidden as treasure.”

The message of the garden is how important it is to safely collect and store water for drinking, inspired by the methods used in Slovenia. The plants are all drought tolerant and the designer Borut is using one of my favourite little roses, ‘Rosa banksiae’ to clamber along the metal pergola which forms a box around the garden.

Borut’s main worry is the plants, ” because all the plants are Mediterranean, Karstic and not used to English conditions. We also deliver all plants from Slovenia and of course take a great risk with how they will react to transport and change of climate.”

The World Vision garden

The World Vision garden

Designed by John Warland, The World Vision Garden depicts the rice trade of Cambodia, “A place visited years ago full of stunning landscapes, big hearted welcomes and unfortunately crushing poverty. ” Many children in the poorest areas of South East Asia survive on just two bowls of this staple crop a day.

This is a striking design with statuesque palm trees and orange perspex rods representing the rice. With a large proportion of the garden being water, John has some natural concerns - “In one word. Water. Never work with children, animals or water. Water enjoys a mind of its own and is always looking for ways to escape. However, at its best this feature will be the absolute star of the design.”

Delicate frangipanis and lilies represent children fulfilling their potential when World Vision works with a community. In Cambodia villages, irrigation projects provide local work for parents and allow more rice as well as other nutritious crops to grow.

The poignant message behind the design is depicted in the black water representing the consequences of such a poor diet and the hidden mirror holes inviting us to look deeper into the reality of life for many children in the world.

The Fragrance garden

The Fragrance garden

The Fragrance garden is designed by Sheena Seeks and sponsored by Harrods who have a historical relationship with selling fragrances. With the perfume industry also being represented in the Show gardens category with L’Occitane’s design: A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse, it will be interesting to see how the two compete.

Sheena’s design is what I would describe as ‘concept’ with flowers being used in both natural settings and scientific representation. I think this garden will pull in the native ‘techies’ with images being transformed when viewed through phones and tablets - I’m intrigued!

Home - Personal Universe garden

Home - Personal Universe garden

This garden focuses on family and how we interact with each other in our homes. It aims to show how a garden can teach and create a sense of togetherness. There are some fun play aspects and water of course but I think it will be an interesting glimpse into Japanese life and how family time is very important to their culture.

I asked the designer Fuminari Todaka what was their favourite part of the design, “The waterfall which is situated in the center. The interplay of light and shadow in this feature provide a fantastic view of the variety of surface conditions made possible within falling water.”

There’s a lot to see in this little garden and I asked if Fuminari had any concerns: “I want the garden’s elements to work to mix light and shadow. I also use a variety of colours and blends to express the design’s Japanese cultural heritage, for example, the appearance of the back board of the garden changes depending on the viewing angle.”

There is always so much to see at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show but do take time out to see these gems. They are quite different in their personality to the Show and Artisan gardens, and naturally designed to make us stop and think. They are a very interesting collection this year and it’s wonderful too see so many new and old ideas being used to create such a variety of designs.

Thank you to all the Designers who contributed to this article.

For previous articles on the Artisan gardens plus lots on last years show please take a look at my previous Wordpress site Musings of a Cornish gardener in the city

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