Grant Associates awarded Gold Medal and 'Best Show Garden' at the Chelsea Flower Show with The Guangzhou Garden
Bath-based landscape architecture practice Grant Associates has been awarded a Gold Medal and the coveted 'Best Show Garden' at the 2021 Chelsea Flower Show for its Chinese-inspired Guangzhou Garden, which shows how cites of the future must be considered as landscape cities.
Designed by the practice’s director Peter Chmiel and senior associate Chin-Jung Chen, ‘The Guangzhou Garden: Guangzhou China’ takes inspiration from Guangzhou, a port city northwest of Hong Kong on China’s Pearl River. The ambitious design showcases numerous planting species and aquatic designs that were perfect for the first autumnal show in Chelsea’s 108 year history, with The Guangzhou Garden including one of the largest volumes of water ever to feature in a Chelsea show garden.
The pair's Chinese-inspired garden pays homage to Guangzhou’s philosophy which gives equal consideration to the needs of people and wildlife through sustainable city planning strategies, reconnecting people and nature in a mutually beneficial relationship. Originally set to be delivered in 2020 before the pandemic led to the cancellation of last year’s event, the pair’s design was subtly adapted to best showcase the more mature plants and trees.
The award-winning ‘Guangzhou Garden’ has been designed by Grant Associates, the practice behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, on behalf of China-based culture project consultancy Creativersal and main sponsor, the Administration of Forestry and Gardening of Guangzhou Municipality. The garden has been created in collaboration with garden design consultancy The Outdoor Room, with prominent bamboo structures developed in partnership with Xylotek, living walls from Biotecture and water features supplied by Bamber Wallis.
Known as ‘the city between mountain and water’, Guangzhou’s approach to environmental planning is based on the concept of ‘ecological civilisation’. Guangzhou has a distinct environmental plan which divides the city into three zones: social green space for people within the central business district (Heart); protected green spaces to the north (Lungs); and protected aquatic areas to the south (Kidneys).
We are absolutely delighted to win Gold at the Chelsea Flower Show with The Guangzhou Garden. Our creative vision has been more than two years in the making, and being awarded Gold is a testament to the whole team that was responsible for making the Guangzhou Garden a reality. It was a huge challenge to effectively capture and convey the essence of vast and vibrant Guangzhou into a 20mx10m plot, but we are thrilled with the finished result and how our aquatic displays and extensive, exotic wetland cleansing area have been received by the judges and attendees so far this year. The Guangzhou Garden encourages us to all think about our future cities as landscape cities that enable people and nature to come closely together.
We have been very fortunate to collaborate with such a creative team for our first Chelsea show garden and it has been incredibly exciting to receive many positive comments about the garden’s serenity and beauty. We hope that the Guangzhou Garden provides inspiration and a sense of calm to Chelsea Flower Show visitors this week.
The ‘Guangzhou Garden’ is inspired by three zones:
Lungs: Characterful trees (dawn redwood, scots pine, field maple and birch) create the ‘woodland dell’ capturing particulate matter, absorbing nitrous and sulphur dioxide. Sedges, Euphorbia and ferns form a green carpet, punctuated with accent and dome-shaped plants such as rodgersia and angelica. These species all help to clean the water, air and provide a resilient habitat.
Heart: Areas for people and nature to mingle and rest. These are created through five structures made of laminated moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) - a fast growing, sustainably sourced bamboo that is also easier to recycle than typical construction materials. The tallest structure is 8.5 m tall.
Kidneys: Wetlands planted with aquatic plants to improve water quality, including water forget-me-not, irises, scouring rush and floating plants. Stepping stones allow people to experience the water at close range which includes waterfalls and small weirs and cascades over rocks.
The three garden zones are all visually united by an elegant, graceful drifting wave of green foliage plants including airy frothy perennials in soft shades of white, and subtle hints of blue and yellow. Variations of these colours, including vivid lime green, are woven throughout.
Photography credit: Alister Thorpe