Earthquake survivors defy adversity to bring their gardens to Chelsea Flower Show

Garden designers Xanthe White and Kazuyuki Ishihara have beaten natural disasters to star at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Garden designer Xanthe White was caught in the earthquake that hit New Zealand this year - image: HW
Garden designer Xanthe White was caught in the earthquake that hit New Zealand this year - image: HW

New Zealander Xanthe White is designing the Tamata display after being hit by the 22 February Christchurch Earthquake.

The international show garden White was building at the city’s Hagley Park was destroyed by the tremors.

White said:

"I was in Hagley Park when happened and my garden was half-built. I didn't even look at the garden again because my children were nearby and I wanted to get to them.

"I started looking up and the trees were swaying. One of the really big trees came down and I knew it was bad because I’d been talking to a nurseryman and he said those trees don’t drop in earthquakes, so we knew it was pretty serious.

"The show became a refuge for everyone to come out and shelter in the tent. All the refugees came to the tent and you could see the ground below liquidating and bubbling up around you. They were indescribable scenes."

She later took the plants that survived the quake to Auckland for an installation to raise money for the Red Cross.

White added: "So for Chelsea we have decided to give money raised to the Red Cross. I never understood the good work they did until the earthquake. With Japan happening this is keeping people thinking to make sure people know these things are happening - the big problems don’t go away."

Japanese Beautiful Paradise garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara was on the verge of quitting Chelsea after the earthquake but determined to carry on for the people who have been hit and to tell the world about the beauty of Japan and how it can return to that beauty post-earthquake.

He said: "I still can’t believe what happened in Japan. The disaster was on a tremendous and huge scale that we haven’t experienced before.

"I saw everything was waving and shaking and thought this was the end of the world. I felt I might need to consider that I must give up carrying on the Chelsea project.

"However I am determined as this is my mission which is I must let all people know how much Japanese scenery is beautiful at Chelsea.

"I believe that the challenging Chelsea Flower Show is for me the most important task in my life."

After the show the garden will be rebuilt at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan as a symbol of the rebuilding of Japan.

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