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Gardening shows head for the city

by Rose Crompton

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The Pothole Gardener

Gardening festivals are breaking out of the show grounds and taking to the streets this summer with the launch of horticultural events in cities across the UK.

This month, London will play host not just to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but also to the Chelsea Fringe, a volunteer-run, city-wide festival of horticulture offering everything from bicycling beer gardens to pop-up allotments. Cityscapes, a series of installations created by leading garden designers on and around the capital’s South Bank, also launched this week. In Manchester, July will see the arrival of Dig the City, a new annual celebration of urban gardening.

A mix of installations, exhibitions, events, talks and walks, the Chelsea Fringe, which runs from tomorrow until the 10th June, hopes to offer Londoners an alternative to traditional horticultural shows.

Projects taking part range from a citrus-themed garden at St. Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch (of Oranges and Lemons fame), to a procession of wheelbarrow gardens planted by students from a Hampshire school.

“I had the idea two years ago while the Chelsea Flower Show was on. I come from a garden and theatre background and it struck me that Chelsea could do with a Fringe like Edinburgh has. It was a classic eureka moment,” explains Festival Director Tim Richardson.

He added: “We want to attract people who are gardeners, but also people who are just starting out. And we want to reach the areas which traditional Chelsea can’t.”

The Cityscapes festival will feature a series of garden installations at landmarks on and around the South Bank. Andy Sturgeon’s city-inspired garden in one of the capsules on the London Eye opened this week and will be followed by a multi-sensory installation in the Old Vic Tunnels by Tony Heywood and Alison Condie, and a pocket park close to the Architecture Foundation, designed by Sarah Eberle in conjunction with architect Andrew Burns. The final garden will be a mini forest outside the Design Museum and will be in situ from mid August onwards.

In Manchester, Dig the City is set to be the largest urban flower festival ever held in the north-west.

Some of the highlights of the event, which runs from 24th to 29th July, include flower markets, temporary allotments and a huge display of cut flowers in the city’s cathedral.

“A team of about 200 flower arrangers has been pulled together from churches in the Diocese of Manchester and flower clubs in the north-west to put a display together on the theme of music,” explains Michelle Bennett, Head of Marketing Communications for Dig the City. “The display will be divided into various sections starting with the Renaissance and moving along the time line of composers to modern musicians such as Gershwin.”

The whole of the south aisle will be dedicated to the ‘Music of Manchester’, with displays celebrating The Stone Roses and the Oasis hit Wonderwall.

This month also saw the Garden Life Show return to Bristol city centre for the second time with talks, floral displays and stalls selling gardening-related gear.

To find out more about the Chelsea Fringe Festival, visit www.chelseafringe.com, for further details about Cityscapes, go to www.cityscapes.org.uk and for information on Manchester’s Dig the City, log on to http://www.cityscapes.org.uk .

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