Chelsea Garden Celebrates the British Council in India

Visitors to the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show will see the show’s first Indian garden from award-winning designer Sarah Eberle in a design sparked by the hopes and dreams of young people in India and the shared love of cricket.

The garden, in the Artisan category, has been commissioned by the British Council in partnership with the Piramal Group supported by Tata Consultancy Services, the JSW Group and Dr Gita Piramal and celebrates 70 years of the British Council in India and the culmination of the UK-India Year of Culture.

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall met the organising committee of the British Council Garden at Chelsea during their November 2017 visit to India. The UK-India Year of Culture was announced by Prime Minister Modi during his 2015 visit to the UK and launched by Her Majesty The Queen and the Honorable Finance Minister Jaitley at a reception at Buckingham Palace. The year achieved a physical audience reach of 7.5 million people with a programme that celebrated the modern-day relationship between the UK and India connected with young people.

The garden is inspired by the documentary film released in 2017 on the life of Sachin Tendulkar – India’s greatest cricketer. His journey is a metaphor for the hopes and dreams of every young Indian who aspires to wear the country’s blue cricket jersey.

The show garden will include Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis), a species found in late spring of 1922 by a British expedition led by legendary mountaineer George Leigh Mallory. Today, the poppy can be found in the Indian State of Sikkim. The Blue Orchid (Vanda coerulea), first collected in the Khasia hills of India, in the modern state of Meghalaya by Thomas Lobb, will also feature. This orchid flowered for the first time in Britain in December 1950.

Sarah has also chosen the Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) which has inspired Hinduism and Buddhism as well as artists through the ages. In Hinduism the lotus flower is associated with beauty, prosperity, spirituality and eternity. The lotus provides nutrients and medicine which have long sustained indigenous peoples and its unusual proprties have inspired 21st century waterproofing.

The flower of the Mughals, Roses (Rosaceae) will also feature. Rose motifs often appear in Mughal architecture across Northern India, including at the Taj Mahal.

Sarah points out that the British Council Garden will celebrate the connections between the UK and India, drawing on the horticultural connections between both countries: “I am working with artisans in Jaipur to develop the exhibit and schoolchildren in India are creating lanterns for the garden,” she said.

Alan Gemmell OBE, Director India, British Council said: “2018 marks 70 years of the British Council in India.  We’ve supported the ambitions of millions of young people through our work to train over one million teachers in Government schools and by investing in thousands of scholarships and academic exchanges. The British Council Garden at Chelsea continues our mission to inspire people in Britain and India to build connections for the next seventy years.”

The showstopper in the India Garden will be the rare Himalayan Blue Poppy, whose colour reflects the blue of the Indian cricket team. Dr Swait Pirmal, Vice-Chairman of the Piramal Group explains that ‘wearing the blue jersey’ is a metaphor for the aspiration of every young Indian to make a mark on the world stage.

For Tata Consultancy Services, 2018 is a key year as it marks their 50 years in business and Tata Group’s 150th year anniversary. Shankar Narayanan, Vice President and Country Head, UK & Ireland, points out that by supporting the British Council, TCS celebrates its strong commitment to the Indian and British economies, commenting: “I hope that this garden is just the start of another 70 years of close partnership between India, the British Council and TCS.”

Mrs Sangita Jindal,  Chairperson JSW Foundation said: “We at the JSW Group are delighted to support the first Indian Garden at the iconic Chelsea Flower Show 2018 in London. The Indian Garden which is being designed by Sarah Eberle is true reflection of the nations’ rich horticultural heritage, as well as the hopes and aspirations of a Billion Indians. We are proud to be able to bring this richly imagined representation of India at one the best attended flower shows in the world.”

Sarah has an esteemed record in RHS shows, having won eight Gold medals, Best in Show and twice winning the George Cook award for innovation. She is a popular designer at RHS Chelsea as well as exhibiting in Japan, Singapore, Korea and New Zealand.