Chelsea Flower Show 2021: Chinese city’s eco garden wins top award for first time in event’s history

·2-min read
“Dream come true”: Peter Chmiel, with his fellow designer Chin-Jung Chen (Jeremy Selwyn)
“Dream come true”: Peter Chmiel, with his fellow designer Chin-Jung Chen (Jeremy Selwyn)

A Chinese garden that highlights how global cities can “work in harmony with nature” has won the top award at the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time in the history of the event.

The show garden commissioned by the government of Guangzhou, China’s fifth biggest city with a population of more than 13 million, was named “Best in Show” by judges at the Royal Horticultural Society.

Debut co-designer Peter Chmiel, who created the garden with colleague Chin-Jung Chen from landscapers Grant Associates, said the garden was inspired by the city’s progress from the most polluted in China to one of the cleanest since 2005.

The award, one of four gold medal-winning show gardens, comes on the first day of the public opening of the world’s most famous gardening event.

It is the first time the show has been held in September after the traditional May event was cancelled in 2020 and this year because of the pandemic.

Features in the winning Guangzhou Garden include a woodland dell for fresher air, an “active air wall” for purifying the atmospher, a calming pool and shelters made from fast-growing recyclable Moso bamboo for people to gather in, with trees and shrubs including dawn redwood, Scots pine, field maple and birch.

It is not the first time Chinese authorities or companies have sponsored gardens at Chelsea but none have previously carried away the most prestigious “Best in Show” award.

Mr Chmiel said the honour was “a dream come true” at his first Chelsea.

He added: “It has been a lifetime ambition to do a show garden at Chelsea but I have always been distracted by other things and it is not easy to find a sponsor.”

The garden was two years in the planning after Mr Chmiel first visited Guangzhou, 75 miles north west of Hong Kong, in October 2019. He said there were many lessons for London in the way the authorities planned the city to create an “ecological civilisation.”

Mr Chmiel added: “In this show garden the woodland dell is the lung that cleans the air, the pool is the kidney with clean water and the bamboo laminated grid shell is the heart that provides social spaces for humans and homes for nature.”

Other gold medal-winning show gardens included the M&G Garden designed by Hugo Bugg and Charlotte Harris, the Yeo Valley Organic Garden by Tom Massey, and the Trailfinders 50th Anniversary Garden by Jonathan Snow.

The Blue Diamond Forge Garden inspired by a thatched 15th-century working forge in Devon won best in show in the Artisan Garden category, while the N1 Garden Centre won Best House Plant Studio.

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