Chelsea Flower Show marks a seminal point in my year. It comes at the end of the spring rush to get gardens tidied up and marks the end of my academic year. Its one long exhalation of relief on all counts.
This year though the only thing I could say about Chelsea was weeds. I was really disappointed. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not criticising the naturalistic approach, I’m saying that if you are going to take this approach to Chelsea you need a spin on it.
I am all up for naturalistic planting and using the garden as a wildlife haven, but this is Chelsea. I feel naturalistic planting gets really bad press for exactly this reason, it looks like a bunch of weeds. To create an aesthetically pleasing naturalistic garden is a huge amount of work. Alternatively you can leave it to go wild, but not when people have paid £50 a ticket to see it.
I’d love to see Chelsea getting a bit more cutting edge.
There was however one stand out garden for me. “Quiet Time: Korean Demilitarized Zone Forbidden Garden” was designed by the environmental artist and garden designer Jihae Hwang. It marks 60 years since the start of the Korean Conflict. This was a really atmospheric and detailed design and execution.
The design sets out to highlight the tension and lasting effects of the Korean conflict. I feel the garden demonstrates the beauty of nature contrasting with the destruction of conflict. The attention to detail in this garden is stunning. There were soldiers jacket buttons on the path, dog tags hanging from the barbed wire and messages in bottles from separated relatives and friends trying to get in touch. The planting was an excellent display of native Korean plants that had been able to takeover in the absence of human presence.
The stream running through the garden signified nature defying barriers of human conflict. You could certainly feel the love and tension within this reconstruction of the Demilitarisation Zone.
This garden was affected by conflict right up until the show’s opening. It’s main sponsor was the Arts council in Korea, but 4 weeks before the start of the show the minister was jailed and the sponsorship was revoked. The build contractor put an add out on craig’s list and volunteers came forward to build it.
The garden was awarded Gold and the Presidents Award.