London, UK: A trendsetting event, RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, UK, is the most prestigious gardening event, attracting designers, plant producers, celebrities, and gardeners, both amateur and professional. The winner of the coveted award for Best in Show in 2021 was the Guangzhou Garden which showcases the important green city principle of plants delivering multiple benefits to people and the planet.
Designed by Peter Chmiel and Chin-Jung Chen of Grant Associates in Bath, UK, the garden is a representation of the City of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province in southern China. Guangzhou has an impressive and ambitious greening strategy to connect the city with the surrounding environment, positioned as it is between mountains and the Pearl River. Technical Advisor for AIPH, Dr Audrey Timm, who was present at the elaborate opening ceremony, said “the Guangzhou Garden demonstrates this approach in taking design beyond the aesthetic. The plant choices reflect the extension of knowledge to practice that is beginning to, and must become, integral to our gardens and landscapes.”
The plant choices and placement are indeed key to the success of the Guangzhou Garden, illustrating the power of plants that is central to the AIPH vision. Many of the plants are multifunctional, and they combine to create and respond to specific micro-climates, just as they would be used in a city landscape. The vertical wall, symbolic of the mountains around Guangzhou, includes plants that are known to remove airborne pollution. A new prototype system mechanically draws air through the plants in the wall to remove airborne pollutants and circulates the clean air into the seating space in the centre of the garden. Plants in the marginal and aquatic area have a role to play in purifying water and supporting biodiversity, exactly as they would in a healthy river system. Recognising the cycles of wet and dry that are common in-built urban environments, plants are chosen for their capacity to tolerate both flood and drought, and to persist for a long cross-seasonal display.
The impressive central 8.5m tall geodesic structure, one of five in the garden, provides a space for socialising, play, or rest. Made of laminated bamboo, the structures demonstrate the use of sustainable and recyclable building materials. The strong vertical line of these structures is mirrored in the use of plants with a vertical form to create pleasing design integrity.
AIPH worked with Grant Associates in designing the AIPH Rewilding Garden at the 2019 Beijing World Horticultural Expo which also demonstrated the benefits of integrating nature into cities and urban areas through an immersive experience. AIPH Secretary General, Tim Briercliffe, commenting on the Guangzhou Garden, says, “The garden shows how development can happen in a city, bringing in the ecological aspects”. Designer Peter Chmiel agrees, stating that “landscape and urban design must create a framework for physical and sensory encounters with nature, while safeguarding natural resources of food, soil, air, water, and biodiversity.”
AIPH is proud to have many friends and colleagues in China who contribute to collaborative global networks in ornamental horticulture. China has a long tradition in gardens, and it is magnificent to have this constant presence at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, thanks to the generous support of Creativersal International.