Chelsea Fringe: A Garden Festival for the Masses

The Chelsea Fringe, a volunteer-driven, public garden festival, is only a year old but already had 150 events this summer. According to the Fringe, some 45,000 were exposed to their free community garden events, avant-garde art installations, workshops, dinners, and “street happenings.” Unlike the Chelsea garden show, which has a stringent selection process and then awards prizes, the Chelsea Fringe is totally open-access, designed for the masses. “If it’s interesting, legal and on the topic of plants, gardens, or landscape, it’s in.” The goal now is to spread the Chelsea Fringe to other cities. It already seems to be working: satellite Fringes have popped-up in Vienna, Brighton, Bristol, and Kent.

While there were literally a hundred events this year, so we can’t highlight all of them, a few leaped out at us. Anna Rose Hughes, a UK-based landscape and garden designer, took one of the most forlorn abandoned places, an old mens’ bathroom in a yard behind a set of artists’ studios and transformed it into a “secret garden.”

She writes that “a lush fernery takes over the toilet block, with plants reclaiming every corner.”

The idea was to add “romantic, luxurious plantings” that would be “sympathetic to the existing architecture.”

Hughes used benches of “simple, everyday materials,” which she set into raised beds.


The result is a “functional, sociable garden for the yard’s residents and visitors, utterly different from the abandoned space that went before.” Indeed, the Fringe was hosting “tapas in the toilets” parties there.

Another small-scale project worth highlighting: Felicia Fletcher’s Podhenge is designed to be an “interactive sculpture.” Organic forms that resemble pods offer a place to sit and an “assuring sense of containment.” Fletcher is selling them either in reinforced bronze resin or cast stone.

Lastly, who would want to miss the “legendary pop-up bar” Midnight Apothecary by The Cocktail Gardener aka Lottie Muir, a “botanical mixologist.” Muir is known for creating “exquisite seasonal ‘wild’ and garden cocktails and infusions using cultivated and foraged herbs and flowers.”

The Chelsea Fringe festival just ended its three-week run in London and other cities, but check out their web site for ideas about how to start your own garden festival and bring a bit of wild, pop-up vegetation to your community.

Image credits: (1) Chelsea Fringe / Chelsea Fringe, (2 -6) WC / Allan Pollok-Morris, (7) Podhenge / Chelsea Fringe, (8) Midnight Apothecary / Chelsea Fringe

One thought on “Chelsea Fringe: A Garden Festival for the Masses

  1. scientiste 06/12/2013 / 9:54 am

    Reblogged this on Mental Flowers and commented:
    On a more playful note, I love the idea of having public garden festivals where everyone is invited to come out and admire and enjoy nature, and each other’s company.

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