Sometimes the story is more important the pictures. Jihae Hwang’s Chelsea 2012 garden is just one of those times. Besides the fact that the garden is a recreation of the still uninhabited De-Militarized Zone that remains after the Korean Conflict – a place which has over the years become a pristine sanctuary of native plants and wildlife, the building of the garden was still effected by conflicts that still weigh in Korea.
Jihae’s garden was to receive sponsorship from a government sponsored arts council, but a mere 4 weeks before the show, the minister overseeing this funding was jailed and the garden was left with no support.
Dan Flynn of GardenLink is an old friend of mine (he built a show garden for me nearly 10 years ago at Hampton Court) and he was working with Jihae to build this garden. When funding suddenly stopped (due apparently to political turmoil), he and his team had been paid for only about half of the 220,000 GBP price tag. With Chelsea countdown stress, Dan committed to getting this garden built and since he couldn’t afford to pay his staff to do the work, he put an ad on craigslist. The post turned up a small army of volunteers who both wanted to be involved in the building of a Chelsea flower show garden, but also wanted to support the garden and it’s many messages about peace and healing. Some came from many hours away and even put themselves up in local accommodation just to help build the garden.
The design highlights the tensions and lasting effects of the Korean conflict.
The barbed wire fence surrounding the garden creates a feeling of mystery and unease. Carefully considered installations feature the remains of warfare, including defensive walls, trenches and charred trees. The fence is hung with cans and bottles containing letters from separated families and friends to illustrate the sense of longing felt by people kept apart by the conflict.
The watch tower reminds visitors of the surveillance of the DMZ and also provides an observation point for the garden. A memorial chair (covered in ID tags) commemorates war veterans and victims. A stream flows through the garden, defying the barriers of human conflict and depicting the feelings of love and tension that the designer believes co-exist in the DMZ.
Dan and Jihae are still trying to cover the remaining costs of building this garden and are accepting donations here. Perhaps you have a loved one who served and sacrificed during the Korean War conflict, or wish to offer assitance in name of peace (the spirit of this garden) or just generally, because your heart goes out professionally to good designers and garden construction people trying to do the right thing….you can make a donation to this garden here.
And BTW — Despite all odds, and with a crew that was found last minute via craigslist….Jihae Hwang’s Quiet Time: DMZ Forbidden Garden took Gold….and not only that, it also just won a President’s award from the RHS — a feat never before accomplished by a show garden.
Designed by Jihae Hwang
Built by GardenLink
More by Anne Wareham at ThinkingGardens about Political Gardens.