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Bristol gifted garden crowned Best in Show at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Grant Associates and photographer Alister Thorpe

Grant Associates and photographer Alister Thorpe

Grant Associates and photographer Alister Thorpe

Press release issued: 13 October 2021

The Guangzhou China: Guangzhou Garden that was crowned the best garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, taking home the coveted Best in Show prize, has been gifted by Guangzhou to Bristol and will be rebuilt at the University of Bristol’s Botanic Garden. Bristol has been twinned with Guangzhou since 2001.

The relationship between Bristol and Guangzhou in southern China was cemented in 2001 when a sister city agreement was signed, and it was further strengthened in 2013 through the signing of a new Bilateral Agreement between the two city governments. Both agreements were facilitated by the Bristol and West of England China Bureau (B&WoECB).

The Guangzhou Garden, which also won a gold medal, was designed by Peter Chmiel with Chin-Jung Chen, and was inspired by a philosophy of reconnecting people and nature, while also highlighting the benefits of responsible city planning.

Inspired by the holistic landscape stewardship programme of environmental planners in Guangzhou, the garden features a pool of water, trees, shrubs, shelters, green foliage, and white, blue and yellow perennials.

The garden also highlights the benefits of responsible city planning and how planners must work in harmony with nature to better connect people with the natural world. With a focus on climate change, it's an eco-garden with an aim to make a difference.

Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of Bristol, said: “We are delighted to accept this very special gift. I hope it will be enjoyed by all our students, staff and the wider Bristol community for years to come.

“The gift of the garden reflects both the strength of the City’s twinning with Guangzhou and our own University’s excellent links with Guangzhou institutions, including those between our Botanic Garden staff and those in the famed Guangzhou Gardens. We are thrilled that the garden will enhance the Botanic Garden’s existing collection of Chinese plants and herbs, and are pleased that we have been able to provide a permanent home for this prize-winning garden. As we work to rehome the garden, we will ensure it keeps its important narrative on nature and sustainability.”

Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor at Bristol City Council, added: “I would like to say a big thank you to Guangzhou for this meaningful gift to the city in the 20th anniversary year of our sister city relationship. The garden’s gold medal is so well-deserved.

“Bristol and Guangzhou have long had sustainability as a focus of our twinning partnership and the garden reflects this with its focus on ecological civilisation. I am pleased that projects such as this enhance the link between our cities. With our Chinese diaspora living in Bristol and the garden’s central location, I am sure it’ll be enjoyed by many citizens and visitors.”

Peter Chmiel, one of the garden’s designers and Landscape Architect at Grant Associates, said: “It is great news to hear the garden will be returning to the West Country and continue to support the botanical links with Guangzhou.

“It was amazing that the garden was so well-received at the Chelsea Flower Show. I believe that the planting concepts were appreciated beyond just the visual beauty and serenity but, also for its sustainability credentials, wildlife value and other benefits to people and nature. I would like to think of our garden as a landscape or blueprint to inspire the green infrastructure for our much-needed future ‘landscape cities’."

In 2016, a Kapok flower sculpture was unveiled at the Traditional Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden to mark the 15th anniversary of the sister city relationship. The Kapok flower has been the official flower of Guangzhou since 1982.

The two-metre-high steel flower sculpture, a gift from the Mayor of Guangzhou, was designed by Chinese artists Li Ming, Li Xiongfei and Zhang Haipeng. Later that year, a Shaun the Sheep sculpture, sponsored by the University, was gifted to Guangzhou from Bristol.

The sister city relationship brings together governments, universities, businesses and citizens to partner on policy, trade, research and education with an emphasis on sustainable urbanisation and environmental issues.

The Guangzhou China: Guangzhou Garden will be rebuilt at the Botanic Garden in the coming months and will be unveiled in early Summer 2022, in the 21st anniversary year of the sister city relationship between Bristol and Guangzhou.

Further information

About the University of Bristol Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden has a strong evolutionary theme and cultivates over 5,000 plant species forming four core collections that illustrate plant evolution, plants from Mediterranean climates, useful plants (including Chinese and Western herb gardens) and rare and threatened native plants to the Bristol area.

Star attractions include an amazing dell demonstrating the evolution of land plants including the dinosaurs' favourite plants: ginkgos, cycads, tree ferns, monkey puzzles and the Wollemi Pine. Other delights include glasshouses, home to giant Amazon water lilies, tropical fruit and medicinal plants, orchids, cacti, succulents and a unique sacred lotus collection.

The garden is accessible for wheelchairs and mobility scooters with a designated path leading around the garden and glasshouses. Disabled toilet facilities are available on site and a wheelchair is available upon request from the Welcome Lodge.


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