While many expect to see rows of bright flowers and pillowy blossoms at the Chelsea flower show, this year star gardens will also feature such biodiverse elements as fungi and a beaver habitat.
Garden designers at the annual Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) show have been asked to consider the environment when making their entries.
Though many of the traditional aspects of the show, including the prize flowers in the Great Pavilion, remain, many gardens focus on nature rather than conventional manicured beauty.
Vir die eerste keer, the gardening power of beavers will be displayed at the show. The Rewilding Britain Landscape garden, by the designers Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt, will demonstrate how the rodents tend the landscape and let biodiversity thrive.
Beavers became extinct in the UK 400 jare terug, and only in recent years have they been reintroduced to parts of the country.
Their garden will show naturally rewilded landscape in the south-west of England, with the designers saying they will be “showing the role of beavers as incredible bioengineers within a natural ecosystem.”
It will feature a beaver dam, and a pool with a lodge behind, and show off a “riparian meadow” of the sort beavers create when they partially flood a riverbank and attract pollinators and other wildlife.
The pair said: “The inspiration for the garden comes from seeing the incredible abundance, diversity and beauty that comes from the presence of beavers, a mammal once lost to the British landscape and now reintroduced.”
Favourite trees of beavers, including hazel and field maples, have been chosen for the garden, as well as native wildflowers and plants that encourage and support trees such as hawthorn and alder, which provide winter food for many birds and support dozens of insect species.
Rather than flowers, the designer Joe Perkins has decided to show off a range of fungi to highlight the “inseparable connection between plants and fungi within woodland ecosystems”.
In between buying new roses and water features for their gardens, attenders will learn about the complex mycelium networks that connect and support woodland life, in the exhibit that will make use of trees including sweet chestnut and Douglas fir.
The garden will also include species that are used to warmer climates, to highlight how our planting may have to change as a result of a warming planet.
While most at the show, to be held in May in the grounds of the Royal hospital, Chelsea, usually focus on what grows in the soil, the dirt itself is the star of the new Blue Peter garden.
The designer, Juliet Sergeant, is hoping to “open the eyes of children and adults to the role of soil in supporting life and its potential to help in our fight against climate change”.
The garden will feature a subterranean chamber, which will show a soil animation, and soil-themed art by the children of Salford. It also features a roof-top meadow and barley field with common spotted and southern marsh orchids and a two-tonne tree on the planted roof, showing the wide variety of plants that good healthy soil can sustain.
Also at the show is a foraging garden by Howard Miller, for the Alder Hey children’s hospital. The garden features a movable foraging kitchen and is designed to help children engage in nature through foraging, sharing healthy food, play, relaxing together and being in the moment.
The garden will heavily feature heather and bilberries. Miller said: “One of my favourite childhood memories is going to pick bilberries with my grandparents, My grandpa Harold had a habit of counting 1,000 bilberries into a bag before he would allow himself to talk to us. My grandma Mary and I would sit and eat the bilberries while he wasn’t looking.
“The smell of sitting in among heather and bilberries just transports me to that moment. So the takeaway I would like people to have is to give foraging a try, it’s free, it’s good for the soul and it’s a great excuse to connect with nature and each other.”