Gardens, experiments and tradition at the Chelsea Flower Show

Punctual like every year of these times, a floral euphoria crosses the city of London radiating from the exclusive district of Chelsea.

CHelsea Flower Show_Vìride Garden Criticism_Andrea DI SALVO

Here, in the gardens of the Royal Hospital , it has just been held for five days around the last weekend of May, as always inaugurated by the Queen, the 105 edition of the Chelsea Flower Show , the largest exhibition of plants and gardens of the old continent .

Impeccably organized by one of the oldest and most famous institutions of the sector, the Royal Horticultural Society , the exhibition ends up as a hybrid between the worldly occasion, a costume event and a budget opportunity for the state of the art and the trends of the garden, its cultural implications, as of the market that revolves around it.

This is also due to the convergence of a highly motivated and mostly competent public of 167,000 visitors paying an expensive ticket, preferably booked for a long time (up to 105 pounds for those who are not members of the RHS) and the participation in competition of new and well-known talents , garden and landscape artists competing for the coveted medals in the various categories provided for the purpose-built gardens – incredibly, to see them finished, in the last three weeks alone. Strengthened by the otherwise unimaginable construction potential ensured by the funds allocated by the major sponsors involved (the average cost for the construction of major gardens, the Show garden of 22 meters by 10, is around 300,000 pounds). All with the complicity of tight media coverage, BBC with dedicated on-site broadcast studio, new media, more than 1000 accredited journalists from all over the world.

All the elements that testify, especially in the times of Brexit, and in any case a contraction of the sponsors’ commitment also because of the recent Bribery Act (a sort of anti-corruption legislation), of the international importance of such an “institutional” event that still sees a guiding and guiding role for a typically British horticulture.

Even in this edition, the gardens stand out among the largest, the most spectacular, just the Show garden , 22 meters by 10, and the youngest. In addition to the usual Artisan gardens, where materials and refined traditional work are revisited and updated, from this year the new category of the so-called Space To Grow proposes ideas and solutions for urban contexts.

These real plant stalls are distributed among the stands of over 500 exhibitors of everything that is due to the furniture and green technologies, along the avenues and clearings in the trees around the huge Great central covered pavilion where, over 90 inimitable nursery gardeners exhibit thematically the riot of colors and fragrances of their collections. From the dahlias, this year again in trend, of the National Collection , to the hellebores, chilled and delayed in bloom, of the Ashwood nursery. And where, proposing the result of the new intersections, the specimens presented are presented for the Plant Award of the Year awards.

Consistently, if you want, with these confused and contradictory times of ours, the themes of the garden works of this edition of the Chelsea Flower Show alternate and intersect with technologically ordered leaks forward, taking refuge in traditional solutions. Ending to suggest, differently but in many works, as in the face of increasingly extreme and unpredictable variables, in particular of the general climate (not only meteorological), the artificial plants and the beauty of the gardens can show experimental solutions, and together and molecularly disseminated, to cope with the main challenges of the moment, from environmental concerns to aspirations to healthy, when not saving, recomposing in terms of well being, both on an individual and social level, between us and nature.

If the natural inspiration of philological reconstruction down to the details of the reassuring landscape of the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden by Mark Gregory met the favor of the public who voted for it during the show, the best prize in the main category went to the breath inspired by the shelter , in the graphic shade of a birch nigra in dialectic with the exuberance of the plot of the surrounding plantations, which Chris Beardshaw wanted as a metaphor of a desired reassurance path for minors who have been abused – to whom the work of the charity organization entitled The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC .

Again, then, gardens that evoke views. From the archetypal window of openings and closures, from the clearing in the Weston Garden by the veteran Tom Stuart-Smith (unique, among the large gardens, not in competition and passable by the public, while the others can only be observed at a distance on two sides) with the its variety of textures and leaves; to that of the South African wine region revisited by the novice Jonathan Snow in The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate , which, on the background of the eighteenth-century facade of a Cape Dutch farm, proposes the progression from climbing roses and garden agapanthus, looking for a row of vines, ends in a red-hot thick scrub vegetation, beyond the protee proteases.

Views together natural and cultural, in the garden to the second, in turn inspired by that of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth and the composer Leo Geyer, designed by Stuart Charles Towner and a group of artists; or in the projection of a Mediterranean ideal with which the author of the London 2012 Olympic Park, Sarah Price, is now experimenting with very different language and sensuality. Lights and shadows scenically marked by walls kneaded in the model and in the pigments of the Mexican gardens of Luis Barragán vibrate on gravel and among plants able to face drought, timi, sedum, euphorbias, but also dark carnations and capers, lentisks and two ancestors pomegranates .

So, up to the social landscape of the garden in “seed correspondence” with that made by Syrian refugees from the Domiz refugee camp in northern Iraq, the Lemon Tree Trust Garden designed by Tom Massey for the sponsor, sorry if it is not enough, Morgan & Stanley, to highlight the role of gardening in recreating residual living spaces, using waste materials and objects, pipes and cans and a set of edible plants and flowers that evoke memories and beauty.

On the other hand, the garden is asked to make itself through new environmental awareness and responsibility, to be environmentally friendly, designing solutions that, in the face of an ever increasing dependence of our lives on technology, “alleviate a routine increasingly subjected to work” (sic !), this is the futuristic design of the LG Eco-City Garden by Hay Hwang, where the sponsor is LG Electronics – or even, in the case of the collaboration between Ikea and Indoor Garden Design, smaccatamente showing how to “ecologize” the work spaces can “significantly improve productivity”.

More seriously, Tony Woods proposes with Urban Flow a garden aimed at recovering rainwater, in a context of plant choices inspired by biodiversity as well as the aesthetic dimension in favoring leaves resonating with perforated metal structures that articulate the space; or again, celebrating the beauty of the underwater gardens, John Warland highlights the devastating impact of plastic waste in our oceans with his The Pearlfisher Garden where he effectively imagines an underwater scene with echeveries, kalanchoes, sedum to imitate the corals and tillansie to make the effect of algae moving.

Still in the smaller section of the urban gardens where to propose and experiment ideas and solutions to transform all sorts of outdoor spaces, the new category of the so-called Space To Grow , we encounter the pyramidal progression of 200 concrete cubes among which stand out different plants in shape and consistency, to reflect the different conditions of our epidermis, in the conceptual garden of Robert Barker, entitled Skin Deep , where emerges a dialectic exteriority-interiority that is also found in Nic Howard’s impressive garden show , The David Harber and Savills Garden, which in the search for an empathy with the environment, it wants to trigger a process of transformative reflection, from the first floor of the disjointed graminaceous plants to a more controlled section of peonies, geums and lupins, in the rhythm of a series of bronze arches and mirrors until the sculpture, on the background of a wall, where the vertical architectural essentials coexist in a counterpoint minimalist horsetail with the multicolored spontaneity of the erigeron.

In any case, and for now in pursuit of a thread on the difficult day to be traced, and going beyond the telegenic patina and gossip from the worldly event that illustrate it, the function of indicator of taste carried out by Chelsea Flower Show remains undoubted; amplifying over the past decades, stages and trends in the design of the garden, from the rocky, to that “for rooms” 70s, from the neo-naturalist wave of the 90s of the perennial herbaceous and even welcoming some instances of a certain respectful progression planetary.

For the meantime, in a logic of recycling (including plants) and re-dissemination many of the elements present at Chelsea will now be transferred and reused, distributed at schools or communities.While, beyond the borders of Chelsea, the floral euphoria runs through the city ​​and not just spreading in a parallel, but completely autonomous, festival of events in free access: the Chelsea Fringe (we are in the seventh edition), without an imposed theme and open to gardening sessions, art installations, walks, workshops , shows. To celebrate the thousand forms and experiences of meetings and plant relationships, with plants and through the gardens.