Monthly Archives: May 2011

Chelsea Flower Show Trends 2011 – and the Chelsea Fringe Garden Show

Sustainable and theatrical themes at Chelsea help argue the case for an Unofficial Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival

Amongst other things, garden design an arena for fashion. This tempts the critic to look for trends and what I noticed was more an extension of previous trends than anything completely new:

  • the visual language of sustainability is becoming stronger, with green walls and green roofs tending towards the norm
  • there is more use of food plants each year, as in the above photograph (of a design by Bunny Guiness)
  • the interest in green roofs is trending towards high-rise gardens: Sarah Eberle designed an accessible roof garden; B&Q designed a multi-storey garden; Dairmud Gavin hung a garden from a crane [see 2011 Chelsea review]
  • the financial trend is to more-and-more money being spent on the show gardens each year

The financial trend reminds me of a previous suggestion: the Official Chelsea Flower Show should be supplemented with an unofficial fringe event. We therefore renew the proposal, made in 2005, for a Chelsea Fringe Flower and Garden Show. The advantages of a Chelsea Fringe would include:

  • there could be sustainably Permanent Show Gardens, as well as Temporary Show Gardens. People often remark on what a waste of money it is that Chelsea Show Gardens are only on view for a single week. The Chelsea Fringe would allow some of the show gardens to become permanent.
  • many summer visitors to London, who cannot get tickets for the Official Chelsea Flower Show, would be able to see wonderful gardens. The gardens could be opened in sync with the official show and would then be at their best for the whole summer.
  • the Chelsea Fringe would re-inforce London’s position as the World Capital of Gardening
  • the Chelsea Fringe Show Gardens could be combined with theatrical and other events, as in the above photograph
  • there could be Floating Chelsea Gardens on the Battersea Reach of the River Thames

Here are the 2007 proposals for the type of events which could be brought within the umberalla of a Chelsea Fringe Flower and Garden Show Events.

Shimmering on the water

The floods have done something amazing to the inland Australian landscape that is perhaps only rivalled by the fabulously unique underwater landscapes that are rarely glimpsed by the landbound. It is a rare event that mostly only occurs in La Nina weather patterns: the overflowing of Lake Eyre.

And where is all this additional water coming from? Tropical cyclones, with their destructive winds, which develop over the Pacific Ocean as far away as Fiji. So out of natural disaster (as we call it because of our cities and human settlement patterns) comes a natural wonder.

Is there a better way for us to accommodate the cycles of nature within our human environments?

Waffle levee flood planning for the Mississippi

I was pleased to see that our post on Waffle cities: landscape planning, urban design and architecture for flood-prone regions and global warming has been verified as feasible. The snippet (courtesy of London Evening Standard 20.05.2011) shows that a homeowner in Vicksburg has made his home into the ‘cell of a waffle’ and that the self-build levee protected his home from the Mississippi floods of spring 2011. Congratulations!

Monty Don on the best garden in the world: Ninfa?

Monty Don, in a recent TV series on the gardens of Italy, remarked that his friends know he has visited a lot of gardens and often ask him ‘What is the best garden in the world?’. So, while visiting Ninfa, he told us: ‘This is it’. I too have visited a lot of gardens and, though I could not name a ‘best garden’ have ventured a list of The World’s Top Ten Gardens. My list does not include Ninfa. Nor have I been there, but I would like Monty to be questioned or psychoanalysed to discover the reasons for his choice. My theory is that Monty Don is more interested in plants and planting than art and design. I like him as a presenter but despair of his garden history and regret his being such a gusher. Critics should be critical and, to be fair, he did visit Isola Bella to say ‘it’s kitch but I love it’.

Image courtesy sunshinecity

Grow your own food with sunlight – instead of eating oil

It takes four glasses of oil to make one hamburger

Most of the oil is used to produce the nitrogen used to grow the ingredients for the burger – according to Michael Pollan. The alternative is to eat locally grown food for which the energy comes from the sun – and from human labour. If there was to be a return to ‘sun-grown’, instead of ‘oil-grown’ food then agriculural employment would have to rise again after a long fall.
The other point about a burger-rich diet is that it is extremely bad for your health. The US healthcare crisis is said to be is a consequence of the US diet which is a consequence of the US pattern of agricultural subsidies. In Europe, the pattern is similar but not so severe.
Landscape architects and garden designers can do a little to ameliorate the problem: they can include food plants in their planting designs.

Above image courtesy Pete Foley. Below image, of a local garden in Berkeley, California, courtesy hfordsa

Gardening on ice: a mammoth project

It is not often that you see a proposal for a substantial indoor garden, still less one located on an ice tundra, however this is what Leeser Architecture, (who also imagined the engaging Helix Hotel in Abu Dhabi) have proposed in their design for the World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum in Yakutsk Siberia. Yakutsk is the world’s largest city built on permafrost with temperatures ranging from -45degF to 90degF.

The extensive and intensive indoor gardens have been designed to “promote a sense of year-round natural life even in the desolate winter months.”

Not much is said of the about the construction of the landscape elements and gardens. This is a competition afterall, so details will undoubtedly be required later.

The exterior gardens are described as “naturally patterned by the effects of shifting permafrost cycles.” Cells will be planted with native grasses. Mosses and trees will be reintroduced to the landscape to reflect the existing topography and improve site hydrology.

While the interior gardens cascade “at the perimeter of the building’s interior with lush thick mats of moss and lichen” grown between a latticework of pathways.” Moss and lichen are the natural insulators of permafrost ground. The gardens have a number of important functions including to 1) add color 2) insulation value 3) filter indoor air and 4) maintain air humidity.

In one of the gardens floats a cafe, while other gardens can only be viewed from above by visitors but are accessible to researchers.