Visitors to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 will be offered a rare glimpse into the spectacular Afromontane landscape of Central Africa - the habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla.
The path eventually leads to a true-to-life gorilla nest – set among bamboo and other typical gorilla foodplants – and a towering waterfall, surrounded by a variety of weird and wonderful plants commonly found at high altitudes.
This ‘gorilla garden’ will not only tell the story of the endangered species and its precious habitat, but also aims to raise public awareness of the critical importance of protecting nature around the world, and how this can be best achieved by putting people and collaboration at the heart of conservation efforts.
Lobelia gibberoa and the Afromontane forest landscape. Credit: Camilla Rhodes/FFI
David Attenborough with mountain gorillas, on location during filming for BBC Life on Earth series in Rwanda, 1978. Credit: John Sparks / Nature Picture Library
Fauna & Flora has been working to conserve mountain gorillas since 1978, when our vice-president Sir David Attenborough called a meeting with us to discuss what could be done to save these great apes. He had just returned from filming mountain gorillas for Life on Earth and was acutely aware of the grave threat they were facing.
These conversations led to the establishment of the Mountain Gorilla Project – an incredibly successful conservation programme which has today become the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), a unique collaboration between multiple conservation partners.
Since Fauna & Flora first began working with mountain gorillas, numbers have increased from just a few hundred to over 1,000 today – a testament to the hard work and collaborative efforts of all those working to save these incredible primates.
IGCP has one simple mission: to secure the future for mountain gorillas. By working in collaboration, supporting conservation science and responsible tourism practices, and engaging with local communities, we are creating new hope for these wonderful primates and their precious habitat - while supporting the livelihoods of the people who live alongside them.
Our garden will bring a wide range of unusual, tropical plants to Chelsea in 2023 – from a medicinal garden including Brillantaisia, Moringa, Leucas, Tagetes and Tithonia, to Eucalyptus and banana trees, to African nettles and brambles. Each represents the many, many flora species that make up the mountain gorilla’s habitat and are critical to the species’ survival. We don’t just need to protect the gorillas, but the biodiversity that surrounds them too.
Many of the plants will be grown in the tropical biomes of the Eden Project, Cornwall, which replicate the warm climate of their natural environment. The garden and the plants will be relocated to the Eden Project following Chelsea, ensuring millions of people can be inspired by the garden for many years to come.
Sustainability is central to our RHS Chelsea Flower Show experience and we are proud that the Fauna & Flora Garden will be entirely cement and concrete free. In addition, 95% of building materials are sourced from the UK, the garden team are recycling and reusing as many materials as possible and zero waste is being sent to landfill.
The boulders used to construct the boundary wall and waterfall, for example, are a waste product from agricultural farming.
Jilayne Rickards – Garden Designer
Jilayne Rickards has been designing and creating gardens for over 20 years. In 2019, Jilayne made her phenomenal RHS Chelsea Flower Show debut with the CAMFED Garden, which won a prestigious RHS Gold Medal and the BBC/RHS People’s Choice Award.
Jilayne’s gardens are designed with biodiversity and sustainability in mind and are constructed using methods that reflect her determination to reduce the carbon footprint of her builds.
Tecwyn Evans, Living Landscapes – Garden Landscaper
Living Landscapes is committed to sustainable and environmental construction practices, which has supported its long history of BALI and RHS award wins. Living Landscapes collaborates with landscape architects and garden designers who also support its core values and firmly believes that landscape construction should complement the natural location it lies within.
Fauna & Flora has been protecting threatened species and ecosystems across the world for almost 120 years, developing and implementing conservation practices that are sustainable, based on sound science and that enhance human well-being. We are a grass-roots focused organisation and know that the protection and restoration of nature will be effective in the long term only if it is delivered by, or in close collaboration with, the local people living closest to it. Partnership and collaboration therefore form the foundation of all our work. Through our global conservation efforts, we have witnessed the importance of rich biodiversity. Every species truly does matter – from the majestic mountain gorillas to the bamboo they feed on.