Chelsea 2013 celebrated the flower show’s centenary and the theme ‘100 years of Chelsea’ was common around the showground, most obviously in Roger Platts 'M&G Centenary Garden'. The Garden leads you on a journey through the evolution of British garden design, from the romantic folly's of the picturesque to the corten sculpture synonymous with so many modernist schemes. Although the planting and structure of the Garden could not be faulted I felt that the sculptural elements were more like a collection of design clichés and far too literal for my taste.
Perhaps my favourite of the show gardens this year was The Royal Bank of Canada's Bluewater Roof Garden designed by Nigel Dunnett. The scheme is modernistic in form and the choice of materials are informed by a strong philosophy for sustainable design. The design is centred around the water cycle which acts like a glue tieing the garden together. On the vertical plane a honeycomb living wall section reminds us of the importance of pollinators and a bug hotel is included for good measure. What I like most about The Bluewater Roof Garden is that it fills me with hope. As we move forward into the 21st C. countries in Asia and South America are becoming more urban and industrialised, it is fundamental that the built environment of the future serves both our needs and those of the natural environment.
On the whole the show this year seemed to lack the ambition to tackle and challenge current design trends and systems of though, perhaps it was the prestige of the show’s Centenary that caused the designers to play it safe, acknowledging the significance of the event. Either way here's to the next 100 years!