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World Vision garden

Designer John Warland speaks about the charity's very first Chelsea garden

John Warland

FlemonsWarlandDesign struck gold with their garden for international children’s charity World Vision at Hampton Court Flower Show last year. This year they have moved their design skills to Chelsea. We spoke to John Warland about their first Chelsea garden.

Tell me about the brief from the sponsor

The World Vision brief was initially inspired by a Scott Adams quote:
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

How did this translate into a garden design?

We visualised the ripple effect that the work of World Vision creates. World Vision puts children at the heart of its work and the ripple effect of child sponsorship also helps families, whole communities and then makes a countrywide difference at government level in many countries. So the ripples start in the central pool and gradually progress outwards to the garden boundaries. The signature plant is Lupinus mutabilis, which produces the tarwi bean. To us it is a beautiful plant, but to the Bolivians a vital food source. World Vision helps communities grow the Lupinus mutabilis in Bolivia and we are cultivating it exclusively in the UK for The World Vision Garden.

You saw World Vision’s work in Bolivia?

Yes, earlier this year we went to visit our sponsored child, Ronald. Seeing the impact of World Vision’s work in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments brought home the life-enhancing potential that can be generated by gardens. In an environment where many plants struggle to survive, World Vision helps communities build greenhouses where families like Ronald’s can grow their own vegetables, so they don’t have to trek miles to the nearest market. Seeing the impact of World Vision’s work was humbling and empowering.

What else have you brought from Bolivia?

As well as including Lupinus mutabilis in the garden, we will be planting a time capsule beneath our ripple pool. It contains items from our sponsored child Ronald’s family as well as from other people we met on our visit, and will provide inspiration for us during the build. The greatest incentive we have to produce a world-class garden is for it to tell their story to the world.

What will Chelsea visitors most like?

It is a moment of tranquillity and retreat in the midst of Chelsea madness. The majestic towering tree ferns, dappled light dancing on the smooth paving and the cool rhythmic pulsing of the central pool are aimed at creating a moment of purity and clarity, plus a bit of Chelsea wow factor of course!

What about ideas to take home?

The garden will hopefully remind people that the garden is a wonderful place to escape the hubbub of modern living. The labyrinthine path inspires reflection and contemplation and can be easily replicated in different sizes and formats in a domestic setting. Walking around it offers a relaxing experience where one can consider one’s place within the world.

You already have 4 gold medals...

We’ve been very lucky and have four golds from Hampton Court. Winning gold is wonderful, but the medal is never our main aim. We believe that if you focus on the medals you often play it a bit safe, and avoid taking the risks that shows like this are designed to encourage. The World Vision Garden is a perfect example of where the message is more important than any medal.