Chelsea Flower Show: Islamic design forms centrepiece of repurposed garden

A previously used Damascene fountain sits at the heart of a new display at this year's prestigious London event

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The Chelsea Flower Show has flourished as a highlight of the English social season for decades but one of this year's gardens is made up of features from the past in a first for the increasingly climate-conscious institution.

Organisers of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show have encouraged designers to explore the pressures that climate change is imposing on gardens and highlight the new innovations that cope with the altered conditions.

Darryl Moore, director of Cityscapes, had the task of retrieving parts of former award-winning gardens for the new display.

"We've created it using elements from previous Chelsea shows," he told The National. "We have Tom Massey's Islamic fountain at the front of the garden here, which is from the Lemon Tree Trust Garden he did in 2018.

"We're looking at drought-tolerant planting with climate change [as] we're getting hotter summers and wetter winters.

"What we've done is continue the recycle theme as we are using crushed concrete and sand that has been reclaimed from building works.

The pentagonal Damascene fountain sits at the centre of the display as it did in the 2018 original that was sponsored by the Lemon Tree Trust. Drought-tolerant flower beds reflected the lack of water in the arid area where the camps have been established.

The designers have planted a mix of British wild flowers and Mediterranean plants. Other standing features include steel columns from a 2010 award-winning display and timber from 2022.

"We wanted to have some iconic elements that people would immediately sort of go 'I remember that' and somewhere fun to be honest," Mr Moore added.

This year, the biggest gardens have had to submit their plans in advance, so they could be scrutinised for issues such as water usage, waste and materials.

The 2024 Chelsea Flower Show - in pictures

Adaptations made as a result have led to a 20 per cent reduction in their carbon footprint, according to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Since last year, all exhibited gardens must be able to be transferred in whole or in part to decorate schools, hospitals or other public spaces throughout the country once the event is finished. The repurposed garden will be set up in a quiet corner of London's Regent's Park.

Among the 35 gardens competing in four categories this year is one focusing on water harvesting to combat drought.

The Chelsea Flower Show through the years - in pictures

An elegantly curved sloping roof pavilion harvests water and redirects it to be stored, while the plants were selected for their resilience to drought or flooding.

The Water Aid Garden "is like a giant sponge", according to Mr Massey, who also designed the Lemon Tree Trust garden with the Islamic inspired fountain in 2018.

"All the water is drawn up, it's utilised, all the hard landscaping is open and permeable as well to allow water to pass through and soak into the garden," he said.

Another first was children being asked to take part in judging the show's first Children's Choice award.

The six largest gardens in the competition were judged on criteria including interest for the visitor, attractiveness for wildlife and feelings of well-being they produced.

The award went to the Octavia Hill garden by designer Ann-Marie Powell, whose work also focuses on adapting to new conditions linked to climate change.

Updated: May 21, 2024, 6:22 PM