Category Archives: Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival

Chelsea Fringe Alternative Garden Festival 2014 Review

Very nice to see the Chelsea Fringe going from strength to strength. It began in London and this year it has events in in London, Brighton, Bristol, Vienna, Ljubljana, Turin, Kent, Norwich and online.
My only criticism is of the Chelsea Fringe website. The graphics are fine but it does not seem to have been user-tested. I find:
– the search facility far too complicated
– the search returns repetitive
– the website unhelpful for finding a group of events in a visitable geographical area
What the Fringe needs is a sponsor which could provide a user-friendly website. It could be great publicity for the firm.
This year, I was lucky to pick up a leaflet for the Nine Elms contribution to the Chelsea Fringe. It was a paper map with a list of events. Wonderful! But I would have been just as happy to download it as a pdf.

Chelsea Fringe Pop Up Park at Battersea Power Station

Among the great days in the life of a building project are the client’s commitment to the design, breaking the turf, topping out and handing over the completed project to the client. Between these high-days there can be longueurs – and vacant land. We have been waiting 30+ years for Battersea Power Station to be re-developed and it was an enlightened move by the developers to make a temporary park on the waterfront as a Chelsea Fringe Project. It benefits the public and attracts attention to the development: win-win. Self-appointedly, on behalf of the people of London, I also thank the Pop Up Foundation for publicising a set of good causes. As you can see from the video, the cause with most appeal for me was Find-a-Fountain. The aim is to rid the world of those evil plastic bottles in which water is sinfully sold for a higher price/litre than diesel fuel! It’s amazing that we let it continue. Just think how much good would result from banning the sale of bottled water:

  • less litter on beaches
  • less landfill
  • fewer litter collection vehicles
  • less oil used in making disposable bottles
  • less fuel in transporting bottles smaller shops, because they need no shelves for water

The Pop Up Event is very English: we love what their misguided detractors call Lost Causes.

Chelsea Fringe 2013 gardens and sponsorship opportunities

The Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival is in its second year. Congratulations to all who have helped make it happen – and especially to Tim Richardson, the Festival Director. What the Chelsea Fringe needs next is sponsors. I would like to suggest Richard Branson to sponsor the main event. He has given us the Virgin London Marathon, so why not the Virgin London Chelsea Fringe? It would also be good to have sponsors for Chelsea Fringe Show Gardens (see my suggested Chelsea Fringe Sponsorship Opportunities]. The right garden in the right place could give the sponsor more bangs/buck than an ordinary garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. London developers etc (eg of hotel gardens, office gardens, roof gardens and small public open spaces) could give them a special treatment and open them for the 3 weeks of the Chelsea Fringe. The developers of Battersea Power Station have an even better idea: they are LAUNCHING the development of a luxurious housing project with the creation of a 2.5 acre Pop-Up Park as part of the 2013 Chelsea Fringe Festival. The design is by LDA landscape architects, who also managed the delivery of the 2012 Olympic Park.

The Wish Trees of Chelsea, a 2012 Fringe project by landscape architect Kendra Inman

‘Everyone has a wish’. Landscape architect Kendra Inman helped wishes grow on trees for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. The labels (produced by school children, students and locals) were decorated to look like flowers and fruits. They were hung from trees at Dovehouse Green on the King’s Road in Chelsea, London as a contribution to the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. Kendra is a graduate of the MA Landscape Architecture at the University of Greenwich.

River Thames Flower Festival Pageant for Chelsea Fringe 2013

River Thames Pageant 2012 was a useful dress rehearsal for the Chelsea Fringe 2013

River Thames Pageant 2012 was a useful dress rehearsal for the Chelsea Fringe 2013

Today’s Royal Jubilee Pageant on the Thames was a useful trial run for the 2013 Chelsea Fringe Flower Festival Pageant, proposed for 2013. The lessons to learn are

  • Best not to have the whole event on one very wet day
  • The boats definitely need  more flowers than today’s event – Union Jacks are no substitute
  • Music is a great addition
  • Dressing up a commercial barge for the royal party is kinda undignified

So here are my suggestions for the 2013 Chelsea Fringe event

  • The royal party should travel from Westminster to open the Chelsea Flower Show in the new royal barge Gloriana (seen leading the procession on the left photo, above (and also in the photo below)
  • Flower barge events should take place each day.
  • One or more blooming boats should travel with flood tide each day from the Pool of London to Chelsea. This would be as popular with tourists as the changing of the guard in the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

Image courtesy DC07703

Garden of Disorientation: design for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Festival

‘Smithfield is renowned for the ghostly late-night movement of animal carcasses and more recently for the early-morning traffic of displaced revelers. Adding to the mix is this new internal garden space, the Garden of Disorientation’. I went to visit the garden on a really hot day in the course of a long cycle ride to visit other Chelsea Fringe projects. Suffering from heat disorientation, I found this intriguing space blessed me with orientation, as did a delicious drink. Deborah Nagan, of naganJohnson, designed the Garden of Disorientation for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. The Garden of Disorientation is at 59 Charterhouse Street, Smithfield, London, EC1M from 19th May to 10 June 2012. Deborah is a graduate of the MA Landscape Architecture at the University of Greenwich. The Modern Garden Company was the main sponsor and supplied the excellent garden furniture: it is tough, stylish and street-worthy.
There are lots of reasons for wishing the Chelsea Fringe every success: it makes London an even more exciting city; it confirms London’s role as the world’s garden capital; it creates opportunities for landscape architects to show what wonderful things they can do for the city; it lets sponsors do really good things with their marketing budgets. We have many helpful suggestions!
So COME ON EVERYONE: the Chelsea Fringe has 100 projects in 2012: LETS MAKE IT 1000 PROJECTS IN 2013. Anyone unlucky enough not to be in London from 19th May to 10th June 2012 can do the London Gardens Walk. It is open on every day of every year.

London Gardens Walk eBook: a free gift for readers & the Chelsea Fringe Festival

London Historic Gardens Walk eBook

London Historic Gardens Walk eBook

To celebrate the start of the first Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival, is giving away free copies of the London Gardens Walk eBook during the weekend of  19th to 20th May.  It is in Kindle format and can be downloaded from any Amazon website. If you don’t have an eReader you can download an app for your Mac or PC from the Amazon site. Comments, or, better, reviews on the Amazon website will be welcome.  There is also a version of the gardens walking map on Googlemaps. It aims to walk you through about 5000 years of garden history by seeing London gardens and parks and objects in the British Museum. Does the world have another city with so much garden history on view?

Download London Gardens Walk eBook from Amazon UK


Laser hologram projection of dancing girls at Canary Wharf Underground station

London Transport need not worry about these girls obstructing the flow of communters from their suburban pads to the Canary Wharf money factory. They are a holographic projection into a thin cloud of disco fog, intended to give the salarymen and salarygirls a reminder of their next escape to Ibiza. [Nor do London Transport need to sue me for not having had a license to take the photograph: it is a simulation.] The troupe have decided to call themselfes the Flowers of Canary Wharf and are planning a performance for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival.

London's Roman Palace Garden at Cannon Street Station

Roman palace garden image projected onto a minimalist wall at Cannon Street Station

Reading about London’s Roman archaeology, I was deligted to find that the site of the Provincial Governor’s Palace is open to the public. It is now the foyer of Cannon Street Station (ie the foyer is above the garden site). So I went to take a photograph. My camera went ‘click’ at 09.52.15 on 05.1.2012 and 57 seconds later a shifty looking man approached me with an ID card and we had the following exchange.
‘I am the station manager. Did you know that this is a private place and you are not allowed to take photographs?????’.
‘No. I thought it was a public place. Please can you show me the sign which says “No Photography”‘
‘There isn’t one. Do you have a sign in your house saying “No Photography”?????’
‘No but there is a difference between a private house and a ………..’
I could not finish the sentence because he interrupted me to say ‘I could call the police’. I asked him not to interrupt and made 3 more attempts to complete my sentence. It could not be done, so I ended the conversation with the remark that that ‘If this is how “station managers” waste their time it is no surprise that National Rail has operating costs way above the European average. It also has lower standards – and the staff are often impolite’.
No doubt he could have given me the Nuremberg defence ‘I was just following orders’ and to show I bear no personal grudge I have decided not to bill Network Rail for the imaginative proposal, above, for using his blank wall as a place on which to project illustrations of Roman Palace gardens. He should also install a Triclinum and train for the more rewarding job of serving Roman delicacies to customers suffering psychological damage from their experiences with London’s rail system.
The site of the Villa and Palace Garden of London's Roman Provincial Governor is now below the foyer of Cannon Street Station

The site of the Villa and Palace Garden of London's Roman Provincial Governor is now the foyer of Cannon Street Station

. Let us hope National Rail ‘read the writing on the wall’ and put on the Roman Palace Garden Projection as a contribution to the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival.

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.