RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012: the gardens (3)

by Rhiannon James

Preserving the Community garden

Many city- and town-dwellers don’t have a garden to call their own and so this year, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is also celebrating the community spaces which give everyone a place to grow food and flowers. The huge Urban Oasis garden (PK240) created by the Royal Horticultural Society and Groundwork aims to draw attention to the benefits of these spaces, not just for the gardeners but also for the wider community: the transformation of neglected urban areas into leafy havens can help to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour; lower stress and strengthen a sense of community. The garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw, was inspired by the vast range of community gardens that have been set up around the country and includes everything from a tiny alleyway garden filled with hanging baskets and pots to an orchard, a woodland area and an allotment.

A Riot of Colour

The Edible Bus Stop, a community project that started as a single garden next to a bus stop in Stockwell and is now creating green spaces all along the bus route that runs from Clapham to Crystal Palace, have created another roadside garden at the show but with a London riots-inspired twist (A Riot of Colour, PK90). “What we’ve done in terms of reclaiming and greening spaces in south London has really brought the community together and hopefully that can help to prevent unrest. So rather than being rioted by people, this space is being rioted by plants – a double yellow line has been pushed up by a tree; a taxi has been taken over by some buddleja and there are more plants popping out of the pavement,” says Will Sandy, a landscape architect and a member of the Edible Bus Stop team. A larger version of the garden will be created at the London Pleasure Gardens, a new entertainment and arts space in East London which opened at the weekend.

The Preserving the Community garden (PAL342) meanwhile focuses on sharing the fruits of gardening labours with a kitchen for pickling and preserving and a communal eating area. There are lots of sweet recycling ideas including turning baskets into hanging planters and using china tea cups to make an outdoor chandelier.

The show is also buzzing with inspiration for wildlife gardeners and has everything from a ‘bumblearium’ where visitors can watch bees collecting pollen and nectar (The Bee House, PAL357) to a garden filled with butterflies (Butterfly Jungles Transitions, PAL354). Perhaps the most exciting environmental garden at the show though is Antonia Young’s design in the conceptual category (The Coral Desert, TH69) which highlights the importance of protecting the world’s coral reefs, home to a quarter of all marine life on the planet. Antonia has used cacti and succulents to render the baroque complexity of this underwater landscape and to send a message too. “I wanted to show that a desert is what the coral reefs will become if we don’t look after them,” Antonia says. The planting is enclosed in a blue translucent box so from the outside, you get the sense of looking deep into the water, and as you walk in, of diving down to the reef – an effect enhanced by water on the roof of the structure that refracts the light. “We’ve done a lot on the wildlife in our back gardens, which is great, but I wanted to show how our actions affect the wider world too: pollution, overfishing and climate change are all having an impact on the coral reefs. I wanted to encourage people to think of this as being in their back garden too,” she says.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012 runs until Sunday 8th July at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Hampton-Court-Palace-Flower-Show/2012


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