Grant Associates unveils plans for Chelsea Flower Show 2021 garden

‘The Guangzhou Garden: Guangzhou China’ takes inspiration from Guangzhou, a port city northwest of Hong Kong on China’s Pearl River. It will be the award-winning landscape architect’s first show garden for the Chelsea Flower Show, originally due to be delivered in 2020 before the pandemic led to the cancellation of last year’s event.

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).

Peter Chmiel, director at Grant Associates, and Chin-Jung Chen, senior associate at the practice, aim to bring this concept to life at September’s Chelsea Flower Show event with their ‘Guangzhou Garden’. The pair’s 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.

‘The Guangzhou Garden’ will be one of 12 key gardens planned for RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September 2021, which also includes Artisan, Sanctuary and Show Gardens. It is the first time in the show’s 108 year history that it will be held in autumn rather than spring.

“Taking part in our first RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an exciting creative challenge for us: we will be looking 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.

“RHS Chelsea Flower Show 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 at Grant Associates

Grant Associates is designing 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 and nursery Kelways Plants. The bamboo structures are being developed in partnership with Charlie Brentnall and Martin Self of Xylotex.

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.

The one-off autumnal RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 runs from 21 – 26 September.

Images Credit: Grant Associates

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at