Horticulture: Can you dig it?

A group of gardening guerrillas has set up a hip alternative to the Chelsea Flower Show. Charlie Cooper meets them

The Chelsea Flower Show, for all its indisputable merits, is not cool. Manicured lawns, panama hats and nicely-trimmed clematis all have their place, but do they really express what it is to be a trowel-wielding, window-sill potting, urban green-fingers in 2012?

London's gardeners have decided not. For the first time this year, in the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe, a Chelsea Fringe will take place alongside the 99-year-old Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show. Nearly 90 free events and installations will spring up all over the capital from Saturday – from herb gardens in Battersea to edible flowers in the East End. For three weeks, ordinary people are invited to share in the joy of gardening with a programme that is entirely volunteer-run, open access and, whisper it, a little slightly more down with the kids than your average horticultural festival.

In Dalston, events are being held in an urban garden tucked behind railway hoardings, where pizzas topped with freshly-picked rocket will be baked in a clay oven. In an abandoned building opposite Smithfield Market, 2,000 individual mint plants will liven up the bare brick and plasterboard to create a "Garden of Disorientation", while a bar serves up four different flavours of mojito. Tea and cake in a floral dress this ain't.

It is all the brainchild of journalist and former comedian and actor Tim Richardson, who trod the boards at the Edinburgh Fringe in his youth. The idea of bringing the Fringe principle – a looser, more radical and accessible appendage to an established event – to the flower show, sprang into his head fully formed one morning two years ago.

"I love gardens, so I love the Chelsea Flower Show and I want the Fringe to complement it," he said ahead of tomorrow's launch, dispelling any fears among RHS grandees that there might be an iconoclastic rebel at their gates. "But we are going to take people out of their comfort zone. I'm interested in a new generation of people gardening as an act of community activism, getting to know their neighbours."

That ethos will run through the show. The Dalston Flower Show, an associated event will bring gardening experts into local inner-city schools, and young people from some of London's poorest areas are being invited to discover a love of the soil in the Eastern Curve Garden, an extraordinary, hipster Eden planted over an abandoned railway line that will be a hub of Chelsea Fringe activity.

Fringe organisers hope to inspire an outbreak of something known as "guerrilla gardening", the illicit planting of flowers in unexpected places – the middle of roundabouts, patches of unclaimed land on inner-city estates, by the sides of roads – that can, occasionally, look a touch post- apocalyptic.

"We hope that this place will be a revelation to people," said Marie Murray, who tends the Eastern Curve Garden, which was created two years ago. "The No 1 reason for this garden was to be a breathing space which would allow children and adults to connect with nature. Tending a public garden teaches independence and civic pride – it is amazing the effect it has on people."

Back in the Garden of Disorientation, landscape designer Deborah Nagan is arranging mint in interesting places, transforming a bare, abandoned shell of a building into a dreamy, green cavern that smells absolutely marvellous. From Saturday the installation and accompanying bar will be open to the public as the Chelsea Fringe springs to life.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture