Hoblyn returns to Chelsea with Tamil Nadu-inspired garden

Garden designer Thomas Hoblyn will bring a kitchen garden to the Discovery Zone at RHS Chelsea 2016 for the not-for-profit organisation Lifeworks Global.

Thomas Hoblyn's Chelsea 2016 Discovery Garden. Image: Supplied
Thomas Hoblyn's Chelsea 2016 Discovery Garden. Image: Supplied

The Lifeworks Global Garden will depict a life-changing environmental solution for the impoverished villages of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The garden will show how organic farming practices, traditional crop production and water-filtering techniques could help rid families of malnutrition and replenish natural resources in the region.
Designed as a kitchen garden, it will sit within a distressed architectural frame, representing a typical Tamil Nadu village home.  The frame will teem with vegetation to show how the regeneration of the area will come from the people within the home.

Lofty orange jasmine and mango trees set among a towering sugar palm will indicate the importance of introducing new trees to the region to provide shade, encourage rainfall and improve the micro-climate, while traditional crops such as chillies, ginger and tomatoes will symbolise the powerful alternatives to the harmful "cash crops" that have dominated the province and depleted the land in recent years. 

On an area of bare soil either side of the house, characteristic of the barren, over-farmed soil that existed before the intervention of the new farming principles, sits a GrifAid family Aquafilter - a low-cost water filtering system that could help transform the region.

The planting palette will be arranged over three levels with plants embedded into every possible crevice of the structure to show how potential growing space is embraced in the community.  On the upper level a sugar palm (Borassus flabellifer) will rise through the architecture frame alongside a breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) and mango (Mangifera indica).  Smaller trees positioned in the middle level will include dwarf banana (Musa cavendishii), papaya (Carica papaya) and tamarind (Tamarindus indica), whilst the lower level will feature green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), ginger (Zingiber officinalis), black pepper (Piper nigrum), and dramatic snake gourds (Combretum indicum).
Paul Manweiller, founder of Lifeworks Global, said: "The Lifeworks Global Garden is a powerful demonstration of how simple, organic principles, natural farming methods and low-cost water filtering systems can have a dramatic effect on the Tamil Nadu region. By providing local communities with seeds, basic tools and knowledge of organic techniques for growing their own food, enriching the soil and filtering water we can empower them to really transform their lives.  It is a sustainable solution that is working for both the community and the environment with results showing increased crop yields and quality and reduced costs, water use and pollution."
Garden designer Thomas Hoblyn said: "Having been to India and witnessed some of the very issues that Lifeworks Global are trying to resolve, I was only too keen to help. Using organic techniques to help heal the land is something I truly believe in. The project also indulged my passion for working with tropical plants as discovered whilst training at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew".

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