Forestry Commission garden to focus on climate change

The Forestry Commission has teamed up with multi award-winning designer Sarah Eberle to create a show garden for the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to mark the Commission’s centenary.

‘The Resilience Garden’ will feature an exciting range of plant and tree species and suggest potential solutions for protecting the nation’s forests from the threat of climate change, pests and diseases.

Set within the British countryside, visitors can expect to learn about the challenges facing our forests and the action being taken to ensure our trees and landscapes are resilient for future generations to enjoy. The design is inspired by Victorian gardener William Robinson – who introduced the notion of the ‘wild garden’ – and will feature a showpiece of trees and plants unfamiliar to the English landscape, as continues to be evident at Gravetye Manor today. Echoing Robinson’s designs, the garden features exotic alongside native species – specially selected to thrive in habitats that mimic existing and probable effects of climate change.

The garden is sponsored by the William Robinson Trust and Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant, the Kingscote Estate and the Forestry Commission. Partners in the project also include the Department For Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and will feature several habitats mimicking existing and probably effects of climate change, including warmer, drier summers and wetter winters.

Designer Sarah Eberle (pictured above) comments that the Forestry Commission centenary is a once in a lifetime opportunity to look to the future – the next 100 years – and address the big challenges around climate change and tree health: “The garden investigates how planting a greater diversity of species is an essential exercise in ensuring our gardens and landscapes are healthy for generations to come. I’d like to see this garden impress, inspire debate, and spur people into action – and Chelsea is the place to present big ideas,” she said.

Sarah has unveiled an unusual collection of tree species to feature in the garden including Araucaria araucana, more commonly known as monkey puzzle. Monkey puzzle enjoyed a spell of popularity in the UK during Victorian times and was once quite widely planted. While native to the Andes, the hardy evergreen will tolerate almost any soil type, providing it drains well. Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as ginko or maidenhair tree, is another ‘dinosaur’ species, having been found in fossils dating back millions of years to the early Jurassic period. The garden will also feature tree species known for producing timber, though infrequently grown in the UK including Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) considered an ornamental conifer but identified as a potential source of fast-growing timber.

Chair of the Forestry Commission, Sir Harry Studholme points out that 2019 is 100 years on from the visionary Forestry Act which not only created the Forestry Commission but also set in motion a century over which the forest area of Britain has doubled: “Our forests are now facing new threats such as climate change and tree disease. This garden is a partnership between parties who care very deeply about how we ensure our landscapes are resilient, now and in the future. This is exactly the right time to be looking ahead and working together to ensure our landscapes are healthy for future generations,” he said.

Sarah has won 16 Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and is a popular designer with show visitors. The Resilience Garden is part of a cultural programme that marks the Forestry Commission’s centenary in 2019, celebrating the past 100 years while also looking toward the future.

Each year there are almost 450 million visits to woodland in England and hopefully this garden will help raise awareness as to how important our woodlands and trees are and how we should protect them.

The 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 21st to 25th May.

Picture credits: All photographs are ©Forestry Commission