A burnt-out cottage decorated with embroidered fabrics and surrounded by swaying barley, designed by a Ukrainian couple unable to return to their war-torn village, is set to be one of the unexpected highlights of the RHS’s biggest flower show .
Victoria and Oleksiy Manoylo, landscapers who were at a garden festival in Milan, Italy, when Russian troops invaded their village near Bucha and destroyed their home, poured out their trauma and defiance into the garden, which will feature in the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival next month.
They hope the garden will help with donations to a charity they have set up, Yellow and blue make greenwhich aims to raise awareness and finance the reconstruction of public parks, gardens and natural spaces destroyed by the war.
Now residing in Duisberg, Germany, the couple sought to convey the resilience of Ukrainians through their garden, What Does Not Burn.
“When the shelling and shelling started, we just watched from afar. We didn’t know what to do,” said Victoria, 48, “We were in shock. We tried to figure out what was going on. We wanted to go home. Every week we thought one more week and we can go home. It was a terrible time, psychologically.
They went to Germany hoping to find work and realized they weren’t far from the home of Carrie Preston, a friend and show garden designer who lives in the Netherlands. She was the one who came up with the idea of a show garden
“I suggested it at first because I wanted to stop them from endlessly thinking about war. And they were in this bad place. So it was, ‘OK, let’s find a goal,'” Preston said.
Victoria came up with the What Does Not Burn theme after talking to one of her clients in Ukraine. The client had built her house two years ago and she had landscaped the garden. “We had planted this beautiful garden. Now everything was reduced to ashes. Everything was ashes. Nothing remains. My client said to me, ‘We are going to plant a new garden.’ »
Victoria wanted to show that the spirit of Ukrainians “cannot be erased”. “I wanted to show the ashes; to show that Ukrainians will rise and be reborn, like a Phoenix from the ashes,” she said.
The Global Impact Garden expresses Ukrainian culture and strength, as well as hope for the future. The remains of the burned cottage are decorated with rushnyka traditional embroidered cloth used in Ukrainian rituals on occasions such as births, weddings and funerals.
The cottage will be surrounded by native plants of the country, including barley and hollyhocks. Field weeds such as wild carrot, chamomile and blueberry will be sown around wild fruit trees, such as wild pear. Inside the structure, a sculpture in the shape of trythe Ukrainian trident based on the falcon, refers to the archetypal symbol of the phoenix emerging from the flames.
The couple are relying on donations and goodwill to bring the garden to Hampton Court in time for the festival, which runs from July 4-9. With some sponsorship from the Guild of Landscape Architects of Ukraine, they then hope to reuse the garden and take it to other countries, to help raise funds to rebuild Ukraine’s green spaces.
Everything from playgrounds to old trees to gardening tools and machinery needs to be replaced or restored, Victoria said. Donations can be done online.
“Everyone knows how our cities were destroyed. Of course everyone is thinking about how to shelter people, but not right now about trees, parks and spaces where people can recuperate after suffering from war,” she said.
Preston said they didn’t want the garden to be “blooming and doom and heavy” for fear it would be too much for people. “But you want to make sure that you’re not avoiding conflict and that you’re, in a visceral way, revealing the truth. So it’s about finding that balance between how you don’t avoid talking about the gravity of the situation, but you bring it in a way that expresses beauty, resilience and hope.