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Young gardeners and designers win prizes at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

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Matthew Keightley - BBC Peoples Choice pxThe award of People’s Choice to 29-year-old Matthew Keightley’s Hope on the Horizon garden, inspired by the process of recovery and rehabilitation after military action, marks a successful final flourish for the young gardeners and designers who were one of the key elements of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

“I am absolutely thrilled to receive the People’s Choice award,” said Matthew. “It is such an honour. We’ve had people coming over and telling us how much they love the garden all week, but I never anticipated we would actually win.”

New young designers have won plaudits, carried off some of the major prizes and highlighted some worthy causes in the process. Hugo Bugg took gold for his RBC Waterscape Garden highlighting global water issues and their solutions, and brothers Harry and David Rich were awarded Silver-Gilt for their Vital Earth, The Night Sky Garden with its astronomical theme and private spaces destined for a college for autistic children.

The Discovery section, highlighting the science behind gardens and plants and new to the Great Pavilion this year, is no exception to this theme, with the top awards all going to student displays.

Winner of the only Discovery Gold medal was Chelsea –regular Sparsholt College for its exhibit The Paper Chase. This garden created by horticultural students, traced the paper-making process from sapling to paper cup and demonstrated how these could be recycled to grow more trees.

The Silver-Gilt winning National Union of Students, on the other hand, appeared at Chelsea for the first time, with a display which was all about novices finding how to grow their own low carbon food and the benefits to be had from gardening.

The NUS Student Eats campaign, designed to get students growing on college and university campuses across the country, now has over 20 institutions involved. Some universities such as Exeter are also sharing their gardens with the local community and others including Gloucestershire, Leeds, Newcastle and Warwick are developing social enterprises to sell their harvest or related goods like honey, cider or preserves.

Walsall College supplied fast-growing plants for the display reflecting the need for crops which can flourish in time to be harvested in the academic term. Staffordshire, Sheffield, Reading and Roehampton Universities provided plants for the other raised beds. These included a Food for Communities bed featuring exotic crops ranging from Amaranthus to Zingiber (Japanese ginger) and an amazing list of Brassicas too –such as African kale, red mizuna, mibuna, komatsuna and kai lan stem broccoli. This bed reflected the important role of overseas and ethnic minority students in introducing favourite crops to the UK.

“It’s great being part of the Chelsea Flower Show with the Student Eats project. You don’t always get a chance to be part of something so well-known and prestigious when you’re up in Birmingham,” commented Sherelle Benn another of the students involved.

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The only other Silver-Gilt award in the Discovery area went to a project designed to promote gardening in primary and secondary schools, Miracle Gro’wers Discovery & Learning Garden

Growing trials testing composts, feeds and care regimes were carried out in over 100 schools, as pupils competed to grow plants for Miracle Gro’s Chelsea Show Garden.

A flower garden dedicated to Alice in Wonderland showed experiments with various soil and compost mixtures and pupils from Holtspur School, Beaconsfield were on hand to explain their results.

Pupils from Corelli College, Greenwich, London also demonstrated how playing music to their plants had made a difference – plants ‘listening to’ Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, flourished most.

Initiatives like these, together with another Chelsea first – a day on promoting horticultural careers- should help increase the popularity of the garden amongst a new generation.

 

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