What a week for the Plastic Oceans UK team at Chelsea Flower Show!

It’s been an unforgettable experience. We feel honoured to have partnered with global creative agency Pearlfisher, who were awarded a Gold Award in the ‘Space to Grow’ category. With the show’s theme this year being health and wellness, their garden, designed by John Warland, chose to address the issue of how we are impacting the World’s greatest garden- the ocean, particularly by plastic pollution. This heavy topic was bought into focus through an immersive, experiential and creative challenger design.

Anyone who has visited RHS Chelsea before knows how wide scale the site is. However it was impossible to miss The Pearlfisher Garden! It quite literally stood as an underwater world, differentiated from the other neighbouring designs. The objective was to showcase the dichotomy between the beauty and destruction present in our ocean – and it did just that.

The garden consisted of below-water level aquatic tanks that transported visitors underwater, whilst live fish represented the threat to the food chain by ocean plastics and their toxins. Beautiful cacti, succulents and exotics grew on the surface, juxtaposing the beauty and possible desertification of the ocean garden. The boundary walls incorporated 500 recycled plastic bottles, representing how much plastic packaging is thrown into the oceans every 2.5 seconds. A hard hitting realisation.

Day 1 was press day, and we had the delight of welcoming some famous faces into the garden! We were overwhelmed by the amount of interest, particularly helped by A Plastic Ocean adventurer and our longstanding patron Tanya Streeter who attended in a plastic dress. This mind blowing creation was made by textile students at The University of Brighton, and woven from pieces of plastic collected from nearby beaches.

Visitors were shown a jar full of the stomach contents of a baby Albatross chick when talking with Jo. The jars contained bottle caps, plastic fragments, a printer cartridge and even a toy soldier. These artefacts are usually circulated at presentations, but doing this in the setting of the garden made the plastic pollution crisis very real. Deborah Meaden, Bill Bailey and Bill Nighy, to name a few, all wore pretty stark reactions and showed a keen desire to learn more on the topic. 

The unique garden concept garnered much press attention from day 1, and we felt very privileged that Jo alongside Rob Brydon were the only two interviews conducted by the BBC that day! This exposure meant those numbers visiting the garden continued to mount as the week progressed. On Wednesday, the entire Plastic Oceans UK team alongside our Trustees attended, and had a chance to visit the co-creation and witness the media frenzy. We were lucky enough to be allowed in at 6:30am, where we could marvel at our garden in peace before the crowds descended!

The sheer amount of support and media coverage has been amazing, and we would like to thank Pearlfisher, particularly Karen Welman, Jonathan Ford and Mile Branson for this partnership opportunity. We are also very grateful for the special access we had for the duration of the show, as we continued to show a new audience the issues of ocean plastics. We strongly support their sustainability philosophy of lightweighting. Their ambition is to design a future where packaging and waste have zero impact. We now look forward to working with the brilliantly creative Pearlfisher team as we try to ensure that all plastic is put to good and long-life use – and not ending up in our beautiful and fragile oceans.

To read more, here is the following press coverage:

Pearlfisher plastic awareness garden designer urges RHS to lead from the front – Horticulture Week
Chelsea flower show: eight great ideas to steal – The Guardian
Chelsea Flower Show 2018: All the Gold Medal winners revealed – Country Living
RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: in pictures – The Spectator
Pulling power of plants:Chelsea Flower Show 2018’s best gardens, plant buys and gardeners to watch – Homes and Property