Gardening, caravans and country walks reflect key elements of British culture because of a passionate love of nature. And it is at its most fashionable at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, CFS, opening on the 20th of May. A catwalk of colour and creativity, the brightest new ideas, the latest trends and the pinnacle of design make this show the one the world wants to see. Over 500 exhibitors from all around the world, including Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens and Fresh Gardens. An staggering number of 161.000 visitors in just a week. A sold out event.
Gnomes and other brightly coloured mythical creatures are banned from the Show. Although there always rumours of gnomes being sneaked in. Look out for them and you might spot them.
For the first time in 30 years, Alan Titchmarsh, the BBC presenter, is designing and building a show feature. From the Moors to the Sea will celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the UK's biggest community gardening campaign - RHS Britain in Bloom, as well as Alan's own 50 years in horticulture.
The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Francesca Murrell and Emma Page. Courtesy Nature Redesigned and Lorenzo Belenguer, the photographer.
2014 is the First World War centenary and CFS has decided to recognise and remember the events that changed the world a century ago. Designers have responded in many different ways to understand the significance and the consequences of what happened during the First World War and commemorate the sacrifice of those who died. These are my top four choices:
1. The No Man's Land garden, designed by Charlotte Rowe for the ABF Soldiers' Charity, reflects on how the damaging effects of the war were felt, not only by the people involved and their families, but also by the landscape on which the battles were fought. The garden was inspired by the haunting images of the war depicted by artists who fought in WWI such as John and Paul Nash. As Rowe says:
" I was inspired by a visit to the Imperial War museum where I saw a painting called Over the Top by Paul Nash and a consequent visit to the Somme, in Northern France, with Afghanistan Veteran Chris Parrott who has helped in creating the garden. It is a landscape that shows all the signs of past conflicts of warfare and some of its elements I want to replicate that for the CFS".
The aim of this garden is to remember the conflict and reflect on how the landscape of the Western Front which, though changed forever, has regenerated and healed.This is a metaphor for the effect of war on the human body and spirit and its capacity to recover".
2. Francesca Murrell and Emma Page responded on a different way by a garden designed for Nature Redesigned. Titled The DialAFlight Potter's Garden, it is inspired by the idea of a country potter going to war in 1914, abandoning kiln and garden to fight for king and country. The war changed lives and the agrarian landscape of Britain forever, so the potter never fired his kiln again, but his garden has been lovingly brought back to life for 2014, in his memory. The garden features an abandoned bottle-style kiln and workshop, set within loose cottage-style planting.
3. The Birmingham City Council concentrated of one of the most popular symbols of remembrance: the poppy flower. Joining forces with the Royal British Legion and the charity Thrive to capture the compelling story of life in the frontline during this terrible time. The feature is dominated by Giant Poppies with cascading water, a dog fight over poppy fields involving the infamous Red Baron.
The Gardener's Have All Gone. Courtesy Pennard Plants and Lorenzo Belenguer, the photographer.
4. Finally, Pennard Plants participates with a garden titled: The Gardener's Have All Gone. Chelsea will commemorate the outbreak of WW1 with two back to back gardens reflecting the times before 1914 and a look at gardens after the war ended when many gardeners did not return to their pre-war employment.