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Postcards from Chelsea, Part 1: ‘The Great Escape’ in the Great Pavilion

At last, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is here!  We visit the garden of the Horticultural Trades Association, designed by Chris Collins. Created to celebrate the benefits of plants and highlight the many ways in which they enhance our lives, it’s full of inspiration for getting outside to relax and enjoy your time.
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Postcards from Chelsea, Part 1: ‘The Great Escape’ in the Great Pavilion
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Postcards from Chelsea, Part 1: ‘The Great Escape’ in the Great Pavilion

At last, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is here! This annual feast of all that’s finest in gardens and gardening is a real high point in our calendar. With the world’s media training its lens on the show gardens, this year we thought we’d explore some of the other wonders that the show has to offer, and headed to the Great Pavilion.

What better place to start than with the garden designed by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), the trade association for the UK garden industry? As members, we’re often in touch with the HTA, and we’ve donated some children’s gardening tools and accessories for the Chelsea garden, so we were keen to take a look.

Joanna Lumley admires the Orb DenIn the Discovery Zone, where exhibits aim to educate show visitors about a horticultural subject or research, ‘The Great Escape’ has been designed by horticulturalist and broadcaster Chris Collins, who presided over the famous Blue Peter garden for almost a decade. This lively garden is a feast for the eyes! Created to celebrate the benefits of plants and highlight the many ways in which they enhance our lives, it’s full of inspiration for getting outside to relax and enjoy your time - however you choose to do that.

The garden is divided in to four distinct but flowing sections. First, an intriguing Orb Den, packed with edibles on and around its structure. Herbs, wheatgrass, blackcurrants... This area is crammed with goodies to give the wow factor to your food. And what a fabulous living bubble to climb inside! The world retreated behind a lush green veil, and peace reigned.

Wheatgrass, from inside the Orb Den...

Next, a container garden, to reflect the many gardeners these days who have to indulge their gardening passion within the confines of a courtyard, balcony or patio. Vibrant pots create a colourful surround to a bistro dining set, a perfect place for the urban gardener to relax and unwind at the end of a long day, perfectly demonstrating that hard landscaping is no obstacle to inviting plants and wildlife into your daily life.

Our children's gardening kit in the container garden

Following on, a 'health and wellbeing' area, featuring a selection of outdoor gym equipment. Chris is a great believer in encouraging families to get outside and get physical, rather than driving to a gym and exercising indoors. And if you don't have much space, or much cash, then use your local park; they're brilliant oases of green in an urban landscape and these days many even incorporate outdoor gyms.

And at the far end, a summer house provides a peaceful space for the grown-ups to relax in at the end of the day, surrounded by harmonious planting. Making time to pause for breath is more important for our wellbeing than ever, now that we're working longer and longer hours. 

The BeeBot composterA particular theme in Chris’ career has been engaging with young people and inspiring them to become the next generation of gardeners. And with National Children's Gardening Week just around the corner, it's the perfect time to showcase a garden designed for children and families.

The theme of ‘kid appeal’ runs right through the garden, encouraging youngsters to get involved. Did you know that children are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables if they’ve helped to grow them? If they grow it, they’ll eat it.

Taking pride of place, though, was a fantastic ‘Bee-Bot’, the winning design in a competition by Kershaw’s Garden Centre to design a robot composter. Topped by a bug hotel and flowers to attract pollinators, and featuring clear panels to let children watch the creepy-crawlies at work inside, this eye-catching composter is a fun way to grab the interest of nature-loving youngsters. And it certainly perfectly matched our Buzz Kneelo® children’s kneeler which was accessorising the stand.

 

 

Congratulations to Chris Collins and the HTA team on their bronze medal for ‘The Great Escape’.

Garden designer Chris Collins chats to an interested Chelsea Pensioner

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