‘Staggeringly beautiful’ eco-garden scoops top prize at Chelsea Flower Show

·2 min read
Guangzhou Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Justin TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Guangzhou Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Justin TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

A “staggeringly beautiful” eco-garden has scooped the top prize at Chelsea Flower Show, as a judge applauded it for not being “all about the message”.

The Guangzhou Garden, designed by Bath-based Grant Associates, is the first garden with a Chinese sponsor to win the prestigious prize.

Judges announced their decision as the show opened to the public on Tuesday, the first time it has been held in the autumn after a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The winning garden includes a cutting-edge living wall, designed by Sussex company Biotecture, to suck dirty air in, purify it and feed it into a bamboo-covered seating area.

Judges said they hoped the feature would inspire casual gardeners to introduce air-purifying plants into their gardens.

Subtle environmental message

James Alexander-Sinclair, chair of the show garden judging panel, said the garden had won because it carried an important environmental message but presented it subtly.

“The best gardens at flower shows are not really about the message. It’s about the quality of the garden. So if you build a garden that makes people stop, they will take the time to learn about the message.

"If your garden is all about the message then it sometimes becomes a little obvious and a little off-putting.

“What it should really be is about creating something that is so staggeringly beautiful that people want to stop and know more about it.

Guangzhou China garden, designed by Peter Chmiel and Chin-Jung Che - Clara Molden for The Telegraph
Guangzhou China garden, designed by Peter Chmiel and Chin-Jung Che - Clara Molden for The Telegraph

Air purification

“It’s doing it effectively, efficiently, and without losing the emotion. The laundering of air is quite a scientific and industrial process.

"What they are doing is taking it away from the clatter of industry and turning it into something that is more natural,” he said, adding that the public could take away a positive message about environmentally-friendly planting.

Peter Chmiel, who designed the garden alongside Chin-Jung Chen, said the garden was a “blueprint” for other cities to become more eco-friendly.

The RHS’s own garden, themed around the upcoming Cop26 climate conference, showcased problems caused by poor planning and building, and how a garden could be planted to tackle the effects of climate change.

In the centrepiece, RHS Queen’s Green Canopy Garden, plants included some commonly seen as weeds, including white deadnettles.

At the Hampton Court Palace show, held earlier this summer, a garden called "Extinction" featured a crashed aeroplane and a field of wheat.

Other Chelsea gold-medal winners included the first wholly organic garden to appear at the show, and an autumn-themed houseplant exhibit.

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