by OAYA on MAY 20, 2013 - 0 Comments in SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Britain’s Chelsea Flower show won plaudits today for its off-grid sustainable garden from Australia.
Prince Harry visited, and Chef Jamie Oliver said: “I’ve had a good look around and my favourites so far (include) the Australian garden.
The design features a lush desert gorge with huge boulders, a native wildflower meadow and a natural billabong (water pool) and waterfalls using recycled water from nearby buildings.
Full marks to the Australian designer Phil Johnson – his off-grid garden uses recycled water, power from solar panels and a billabong (storm pool) to showcase his environmental passions, even if a tribe of Australians did have to trot halfway around the globe to demonstrate it. His billabong pool is a natural swimming pool – it looked rather brown this morning me, but had just been filled. It contains a new filter system that makes these natural swimming ponds a breeze to maintain (from Hydrobalance ).
“This is completely different to anything ever showcased here at Chelsea,” Phillip Johnson, the designer of the garden, told AAP.
“We’re going for it. We’re trying to achieve the highest award Australia’s never won, the Best in Show.”
The ambitious $2 million display will combine several elements of Australian nature, with a strong focus on sustainability.
Fleming’s Nurseries director Wes Fleming has promised his family this will be his last year but he’s hoping to go out with a bang – and the top prize that has eluded him over the years.
Award-winning landscape designer Johnson was selected to lead a team of 18 unpaid volunteers, with the project partially funded by sponsorships and donations.
Event organisers at the Royal Horticultural Society were so taken by Mr Johnson’s design, they allocated the Australian team its largest and most prominent position within the showgrounds yet.
The Queen is also on board, having requested the Flemings’ garden be included in her tour of the show.
“So there’s a little bit of pressure on myself and the team but it’s an amazing journey,” Johnson said.
The piece de resistance is the “waratah studio”, which towers over the garden and features a viewing area designed specifically for the Queen’s eye height.
It promises to be spectacular but Johnson says it’s also a little rough around the edges, which might ruffle a few feathers among traditionalists.
“It’s organic, it’s free-formed, it’s got really hard-core environmental messaging,” Mr Johnson said.
“We’re not going to be polishing the leaves, we’re not going to be pruning the dead fern throngs because that’s what occurs in nature.”
“There will be people that will not like it but I have had some extraordinary feedback.”
The Australians will be competing against 14 other designs, including a garden supported by Prince Harry.
“The Chelsea is regarded as the Olympics of horticulture, landscape design and landscape architecture,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s also a brilliant opportunity for us to showcase our sustainable messaging to the world.”
Johnson’s gardeners received a boost as Prince Harry dropped by and gave their entry a ringing endorsement.
With only two days to finish the garden, the team was shocked when the prince asked to see the exhibit.
Garden designer Johnson, who hails from the small town of Monbulk, some 45 minutes from Melbourne, said: ‘We can’t thank him enough for coming. The energy that visit has done for our team’s morale is fantastic.
‘These are people spending six weeks away from home and he gave them such a boost.’
The pair showed Harry into an imposing pine and aluminium studio, made in the shape of the Australian national flower, the waratah, which towers above the garden.
Mr Fleming said: ‘The great thing about H, as we call him, is that even though he’s a royal, he had to take his shoes off and was totally fine with that – we were just disappointed he didn’t have holes in his socks.
‘He had bright purple ones on – they were quite trendy.’
The studio, reached by a spiral staircase, has been designed specifically with the Queen – and in particular, her height – in mind.
If she stands in the middle of the flower, the wooden petals will be out of her line of vision, giving her an uninterrupted view of the Australian native plants below.
Mr Fleming said: ‘Prince Harry wasn’t that confident she would make it up there. But he said if she did, he would give us a gold medal for the garden himself.’