Green concerns highlighted as RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival returns

·4-min read

Environmental concerns are at the forefront of a number of gardens at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, as it makes its return after the pandemic.

Gardens highlighting the sixth mass extinction of wildlife on the planet, efforts to tackle plastic pollution and the impact of fashion and clothing on the environment are among the “global impact gardens” at the festival.

The Royal Horticultural Society, which puts on the festival, has a feature garden designed by Jamie Butterworth which draws attention to the impact the changing climate is having on gardens and gardeners.

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival is making a return to the grounds of the royal palace in Surrey this week after it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

It is the first of the summer’s shows to return, as this year’s Chelsea Flower Show has been moved to the autumn for the first time in its history, and the event is taking place with Covid-19 measures in place as a result of the delayed lifting of restrictions.

Garden designer Felicity O'Rourke
Garden designer Felicity O’Rourke leaves the plane on the Extinction garden (RHS/Luke MacGregor/PA)

Visitors will have to show proof of a recent negative lateral flow test or full vaccination received at least 14 days before attending the event, and measures including socially distanced queues, layout changes, regular testing of exhibitors, hand sanitiser and reduced numbers are all in place.

After a year in which many people have felt the health and wellbeing impact of gardening, some show designers are taking the opportunity to remind gardeners about the importance of protecting the garden, the RHS said.

They include the “extinction” garden by Felicity O’Rourke, highlighting the exploitation and destruction of natural resources driving the extinction crisis facing nature.

It features a crashed commercial plane in an agricultural crop field, through the wreckage of which visitors can see ancient species of plant such as ferns, which have existed since long before humans walked the Earth.

The fashion footprint garden, designed by Baz Grainger, aims to highlight the impact of clothing and textiles on the environment, with a sunken area and water feature inspired by dye vats used in Asia.

Garden designer Jamie Butterworth
Garden designer Jamie Butterworth in the RHS Garden for a Green Future (RHS/Luke MacGregor/PA)

It also promotes measures to reduce the impact of clothing, such as recycling textiles, with boundary fences woven with fabric from recycled fibres, and using natural dyes, with plants used for natural dyes featuring in the garden as well as those efficient at filtering pollutants from the atmosphere.

The Canal and River Trust’s “message in a bottle” garden represents a discarded bottle floating towards the sea, with a garden growing inside it, to highlight the steps everyone can take to reduce plastic pollution.

The garden features flax, which represents the large number of plant species which can be used for natural alternatives to plastic, as well as bright planting to inspire people to take action on the natural world.

The RHS “garden for a green future”, designed by Jamie Butterworth, aims to draw attention to the impact that the changing climate is having on UK gardens and gardeners, and how our gardens may look in the future.

It features plants that will be able to cope with diverse weather conditions including summer heat and wet winters, including drought-tolerant perennials and meadow mixtures, while there are also trees to provide shade and “rivers” of water that fill up in flooding but are mostly dry in summer.

View of the garden of Tom Stuart-Smith
Tom Stuart-Smith has a garden at the show which highlights the changing climate (RHS/Luke MacGregor/PA)

And the RHS said this year’s horticultural hero is Tom Stuart-Smith, whose garden features a climate-resilient meadow interspersed with Mediterranean shrubs, and has been designed to showcase plants suited to the hot and dry conditions that have become increasingly commonplace.

Helena Pettit, director of RHS gardens and shows, said: “After a year where the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening have been experienced by so many, a number of designers are also using this year’s show as a platform to remind people about the importance of protecting the environment.

“Designs will highlight issues including the climate crisis, plastic pollution and the impact of the fashion industry on our environment.

“We welcome gardens and displays at our shows which support our commitment to helping the UK’s 30 million gardeners garden in a changing environment.”

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