To meet the challenges of climate-change and rapid urban development, the Greening Grey Britain Garden, a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) feature at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (23 – 27 May), sponsored by M&G Investments, showcases how and why plants, nature and gardens have never been needed more in our towns and cities.
Professor Nigel Dunnett, says: “Gardens and plants are no longer an optional and decorative ‘nice-to-have’, they’re essential. With pollution levels dangerously high in cities like London, Glasgow and Southampton and flash-flooding devastating areas of the country last year, we need to all embrace the fact that plants help mitigate against some of the biggest environmental threats facing us today.”
Set within an urban context of high-rise and apartment blocks, the RHS Greening Grey Britain garden focuses on practical and creative solutions for where space is at a premium, including balconies, and other spaces on and around the buildings themselves.
“The benefits of plants, gardens and greenspaces aren’t appreciated enough,” Nigel adds, “and I hope that by showcasing realistic, simple and sustainable ideas that are directly relevant to home gardeners, community groups and crucially, to urban residential and commercial developers we can make a difference.”
Nigel uses plants that soak-up pollution, as well as those which are drought-tolerant. The garden employs water-sensitive design ideas, such as rain gardens and wetland areas to deal with flash flooding. Nigel’s typical ‘low-input, high impact’ planting style is used throughout to deliver a long-lasting colourful visual display with minimal maintenance and high wildlife value. The garden is full of ecological ideas set within a modern and contemporary design.
Large, multi-tiered habitat structures which mirror the human apartment block, also feature in the garden. These ‘Creature Towers’ provide a home for a wide range of wildlife such as insects and birds.
Other elements include bike storage, recycling and composting facilities, and edible planting, including a 2.5 metre long communal meeting table, that integrates fruit trees and herbs in its structure.
“We know that gardens and gardening bring people together, and there’s now overwhelming evidence that they make us feel better and healthier. These ideas are central to the design. In uncertain times such as those in which we live now, where community spirit is deteriorating, and we are unsure of what lies ahead, there’s never been a greater need for us to engage with each other, and with nature.”, adds Nigel.
The garden, which is an unjudged show feature, also contains RHS Chelsea’s first ever street-art wall, created by internationally-acclaimed Sheffield street artists Faunagraphic and Rocket01.
Many of the plants will be grown by Hampshire nursery Hortus Loci.
Tickets to RHS Chelsea Flower Show are still available to buy at www.rhs.org.uk/flowershows