One of the Chelsea Flower Show 2015 gardens in the Fresh category that I loved was the ‘World Vision Garden: Grow Hope’, inspired by the beauty of Cambodia. It won a silver-gilt medal for designer John Warland, a four-time RHS medallist and a supporter of World Vision. It evokes the rice fields of Cambodia where children often survive, but are malnourished, on just two bowls of rice a day.
Translucent golden acrylic rods represent rice paddy fields, stepped down in tiers like the typical rice terraces. The dark water evokes the fear of hunger vulnerable children live with. But hope blooms in this garden – mirrored boxes shine light into the darkness, while irises and water violets appear, showing that with the right conditions, delicate flowers will bloom and thrive.
The plants used are:
Chinese windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula)
Powdery alligator flag (Thalia dealbata)
Golden club (Orontium aquaticum)
Water violet (Hottonia palustris)
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
Elephant ear (Colocasia esculenta)
Umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius)
Slender tufted sedge (Carex acuta)
Water Soldier (Stratiotes aloides)
The water hyacinth is a very invasive declared weed in Australia and many parts of the world but in Cambodia it is used cleverly and usefully. It soaks up excess nutrients in the water and is then harvested to use in the fields as fertiliser.
I first saw the garden on Press Day, when it was raining and you can see how beautiful the patterns of the raindrops were on the water. On Thursday when it was sunny and calm, the reflections were so perfect it was almost impossible to photograph the garden without the surrounding crowds appearing in the photos as reflections. The contrast of the cactus in their mirrored boxes against the water was mesmerising.
The tall palms made fascinating reflections too. In sun, the translucent rods positively glowed, almost like fibre optics. Another visual play came from the movement of the water hyacinth as it floated across the surface – sometimes it appeared as if the cactus boxes were moving rather than the aquatic plants.
A visual treat, I thought.