Chelsea spotlight for the trendy and the spiritual

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The Independent Online
TO SOME it's trendy. To others it's a fashionable extension to the bleached-oak bathroom, the two kids and the Volvo. And then there are those for whom it's a spiritual release, writes Ian MacKinnon.

After a huge upsurge in interest, gardening in the Nineties is a broad church. The 81st Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show, which opens today in London, is keen to emphasise its long history, and many of its specially constructed gardens portray a bygone age.

But garden designers and commentators who tour Britain peering over hedges tell a different story. Gardening is casting off its dowdy image as 20- and 30-somethings increasingly take up spades.

Some subscribe to the 'homes and gardens' theory. Sally Player, a garden designer, said: 'They call it the outside room. They have co- ordinated the furniture and the wallpaper so the next step is the garden.'

Others detect a more natural outlook. Sue Shephard, commissioning editor for Channel 4's gardening programmes, said: 'People want their gardens to look much less plastic, less regimented, and more like a tiny bit of countryside.'

Daniel Pearson, a designer, said that after Eighties consumerism 'all of my friends in their twenties and early thirties are looking for some kind of spiritual release that they can put their heart and soul into, and they get that in gardening.'

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