Chelsea 18: The Wuhan Water Garden
Patrick Collins & Laurie Chetwood were inspired by China’s City of 100 Lakes
‘The Wuhan Water Garden’ is the fifth design for RHS Chelsea by architect Laurie Chetwood and landscape architect and Pre-Registered SGD Member Patrick Collins, and tells the story of ancient water management in Wuhan – China’s City of 100 Lakes.
Chetwood came up with the idea for a Chelsea Show Garden while working on the master planning of areas of Wuhan. He was inspired by the 4,000-year-old ‘Great Yu’ legend, which explains how the man-made canals and lakes around the city ebb and flow to alleviate flooding from the River Yangtze, which flows through the centre of Wuhan. In the West, less efficient, inflexible dams are often employed to manage flood waters, a message that they aim to convey through their design.
The garden presents, in a stylised form, a journey through the contrasting natural landscape of Hubei Province and the high-tech urban environment of Wuhan, showcasing the area’s unique geography, history, plant resources and technical achievements. A suspended walkway runs the length of the site, passing through planting that represents varied natural landscapes: under dense tree canopies and over lush forest floor, then emerging as a bridge over the City of Wuhan in the centre and on to a more formal urban landscape.
“The lake in our design is made up of a series of prefabricated, interconnecting tanks, each of which contains water or water and planting, to create a sort of chessboard effect. At the centre, there is a series of spectacular fountains, which represent the water management story,” explains Chetwood.
The planting is a celebration of Chinese flora, and shows the contrast between the lush forests in the mountainous regions and the more vibrant cultivated landscapes of the urban areas. “The plants fall into three main categories,” explains Collins. “Native Chinese plants found in the Hubei Province; plants with a wide distribution across the Northern Hemisphere, including China; and garden plants with a Chinese heritage. The Chinese birch, Betula albosinensis, Cotoneaster, Viburnum and Euonymus, underplanted with ferns and Epimedium species, will make up the forested areas, while peonies, Rosa chinensis cultivars, and other herbaceous plants add colour and drama to the cityscape.”