The RHS COP26 garden demonstrates how horticulture as practised in our gardens, plants and public green spaces can play an integral part in protecting our planet and people, and to ensure a greener more resilient future for us all.
The garden is organized on the basis of a cycle. The circular narrative displays a degraded environment, followed by adaptation to changing conditions. There is then an area showing mitigation techniques which is followed by a balanced selection of plants responding to the higher temperatures and stormier weather that we can expect in generations to come.
The Exhibit attempts to illustrate the complexity of climate change, but has to be selective in what it demonstrates. Many problems such as wind damage or rising sea levels are not alluded to. The benefits of worms in the soil or biological control instead of pesticides are not discussed. And, of course there is much uncertaintity about prognoses for 50 years hence. If the Gulf Stream drifts away, we might achieve a climate of even more violent swings.
Consequently the Exhibit is built around a few concerns, in particular, flooding and insufficient awareness and thoughtful design to allow Society to cope. It also considers a limited range of new plants to help us adapt to rising temperature and difficult weather. It shows some techniques that can be used to mitigate climatic disaster and finally it creates a garden that shows some of the plants that might be commonly seen in 50 years time.
Of course, a great deal is left out and there is a lot of guesswork but here is food for thought.
Inspired by the cyclical nature of both the organic and inorganic world and its systems, the ground plan is derived from 8 intersecting 6m radius circles rotating around the centre of the 20 x20 m exhibit to create a sequence of 18 crescent-shaped spaces or sectors. A sinuous path cuts through to allow public access through the plan and there is a further division at right angles creating a figure of 4 distinct quarters, each representing 4 aspects of climate change – Decline, Adaptation, Mitigation and Balance.
The Ground Plan is firm and helpful in organizing a highly complex narrative. The spatial design is more relaxed and creates loose enclosures for each quarter. While each sector is discernible on the ground, the spaces created by the plants frequently cut across the sectors. The planting is used to contain the exhibit and define the spaces. It also characterizes the sectors.
Use the buttons below to learn more about the 4 quarters, universal windowbox and plants or go to https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/cop26 to view the RHS site