14. Wakehurst's Asian Heath Garden and South Park Visual Air © RBG Kew 2022


Forming the most ambitious summer programme to date for RBG Kew’s wild botanic garden, Meadowland at Wakehurst presents a series of bespoke art installations. Running on Fri 14 June – Tues 10 Sept, this new show features works specially commissioned for the 535-acre site to give voice to one of Britain’s most critically threatened habitats – the meadow. Meadowland forms both a celebration of the diverse wildflowers, grasses and wildlife that form these precious ecosystems, and a rallying cry to unite people in protecting the rare habitat for future generations.

Wakehurst is home to a range of beautiful biodiverse meadows – from the ancient Hanging Meadow in the Loder Valley Nature Reserve to Coronation Meadow created in 2015 as a response to the then Prince of Wales’ call for new wildflower meadows marking 60 years of the late Queen’s reign. Across the country, it is today estimated that only 1% of species-rich meadows survive in active management and continue to be lost at an alarming rate. The scale and speed of this decline represents a conservation catastrophe. Responding to this critical state, Wakehurst has developed a Meadowland to champion this threatened habitat in its time of great need.

Wakehurst RBG KEW Picture by Jim Holden

Working in collaboration with leading artists on four new installations, Wakehurst hopes to connect visitors with the grasslands that serve such an important role for both the environment and society. Nestled across the landscapes, the bespoke commissions will draw explorers down new paths through Wakehurst’s vibrant meadows. Taking inspiration from swishing grasses, buzzing pollinators, bursts of colour, and hidden voices, the artworks span a multitude of creative mediums from audio and film to sculpture and textile. 

For the first time in a summer programme, Wakehurst’s own horticulturalists will also explore their creative side, as the meadows themselves become a canvas for important stories, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between humans and grassland.

Coronation Meadow Summer 2023, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

Highlights include five 3.5m tall wooden gateways decked in multicoloured prayer flags to form a shrine to the plants and pollinators of meadows in The Wings Flutter, Grasslands are Alive from artist Saroj Patel. There’s also a giant steel gramophone, which  gives nature a voice, projecting a series of interviews with meadow wildlife recorded onsite at Wakehurst, from audio producer Annabel Ross, composer and sound artist Alice Boyd and sculptor Donnacha Cahill.

Tord Boontje, Shadowy chair orange, Photography by Eye Studio - Moroso

Elsewhere, a portal to a parallel world reveals what life might be like from a bee’s perspective in Beeline, a bespoke audio-visual piece from Heinrich & Palmer. A circle of colourful woven chairs handmade in Dakar will offer a peaceful haven to slow down and enjoy the natural surrounds of the Asian Heath Garden, all designed by Tord Boontje and inspired by traditional Senegalese weaving practices. A multitude of mown paths through Wakehurst’s Coronation Meadow will afford visitors an intimate audience with plants and wildlife – complete with quotes from inspirational figures carved into ash saved from the gardens.

Wakehurst’s 40-acre ancient parkland, South Park, is opening  to the public for the very first time. To accompany the sights, there’s a series of events planned, which will offer activities for all ages throughout the summer months, from music, aerial performances and fire dancing in Wanderwild, to the next plant-saving mission for young planet protectors in Nature Heroes: Flower Power.

For more information and tickets, head over to: www.kew.org/wakehurst 

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