Grant Associates reveals final design plans for The Guangzhou Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2021

World renowned landscape architecture practice Grant Associates has shared the final landscape design plans for its show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2021, which takes place later this month. 'The Guangzhou Garden' looks to show how cities of the future must be considered as landscape cities.

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Designed by Peter Chmiel, director at Grant Associates, and Chin-Jung Chen, senior associate at the practice, 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.

It will be one of several key gardens planned for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021, which also includes Artisan, Sanctuary and Show Gardens. Taking place from 21-26 September, it is the first time in the show’s 108 year history that it will be held in autumn rather than spring.

'The Guangzhou Garden: Guangzhou China’ takes inspiration from Guangzhou, a port city northwest of Hong Kong on China’s Pearl River. Currently under construction, it is set to be award-winning landscape architect’s first show garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. The ambitious design concept, which was originally due to be delivered in 2020 before the pandemic led to the cancellation of last year’s event, has now been subtly adapted to best showcase the planting species and aquatic designs at this later time in the year. 

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).

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Peter Chmiel and Chin Chen of Grant Associates have designed the ‘Guangzhou Garden’ on behalf of China-based culture project consultancy Creativersal and the main sponsor is the Administration of Forestry and Gardening of Guangzhou Municipality. The garden is being created in collaboration with garden design consultancy The Outdoor Room. The prominent bamboo structures are being developed in partnership with Charlie Brentnall and Martin Self of Xylotek.

"Taking part in our first RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an exciting creative challenge for us as we look to capture the essence of vast and vibrant Guangzhou, with a population of 15 million people, and distill it down into a garden plot just 20mx10m! We are fortunate in our design approach and planting species for the Guangzhou show garden: September is a good time for aquatic displays and we are using this year’s autumn event as an opportunity to showcase our extensive and exotic wetland cleansing area, using a serene display of water lilies." 

Peter Chmiel, director, Grant Associates

"Later this month, we will be delighted to have the opportunity to unveil a design that’s been two years in the making for us. We are fortunate to have been working with a very experienced team on our journey to Chelsea: devising the ‘Guangzhou Garden’ has been a truly collaborative creative process."  

Chin-Jung Chen, senior associate, Grant Associates

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 will be 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.

"RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 is a terrific opportunity for us to reach a bigger audience with the important message that we need to think about our future cities as landscape cities that enable people and nature to come closely together. We hope visitors will leave the ‘Guangzhou Garden’ feeling uplifted and inspired about the possibilities for the future."

Peter Chmiel, director, Grant Associates
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The one-off autumnal RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 runs from 21 - 26 September. Follow Grant Associates on Twitter and LinkedIn for latest garden build updates and news from the event.

Key collaborators:

The Outdoor Room - Main contractor

Xylotek - Timber structure

Biotecture - Living walls

Bamber Wallis - Water features

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About Grant Associates

Grant Associates is a pioneering international landscape architecture practice. Our work reconnects people with nature in insightful, delightful and distinctive ways whilst addressing the global challenges of urbanisation, the climate crisis and biodiversity extinction.

Our design process is underpinned by a knowledge of human behaviour, nature and ecological science combined with innovative design technology. We bring original thinking, creative collaboration and are exploring what regenerative design and the circular economy means to landscape architecture.

Our varied portfolio includes ambitious large-scale, landmark projects through to small, local ventures.

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