A burnt-out cottage adorned with embroidered fabrics and surrounded by billowing barley, designed by a Ukrainian couple unable to return to their war-ravaged village, will be one of the unexpected highlights of RHS’ biggest flower show.
Victoria and Oleksiy Manoylo, landscape architects who were at a garden festival in Milan, Italy, when Russian troops invaded their village near Bucha and destroyed their home, have poured their trauma and defiance into the garden, which is at the RHS Hampton Court Palace will be featured at the garden party next month.
They hope the garden will help raise funds for a charity they founded, Yellow and Blue Makes Green, which aims to raise awareness and funding to help rebuild public parks, gardens and natural areas that were destroyed by the war.
Now based in Duisburg, Germany, the couple tried to convey the resilience of Ukrainians through their garden, What Does Not Burn.
“When the bombing 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 understand what was happening. 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 in hopes of finding work and found they were not far from the home of Carrie Preston, a friend and show garden designer who lives in the Netherlands. It was she who came up with the idea of a show garden
“I first suggested it because I wanted to stop her from endlessly thinking about the war. And they were in this bad place. So it was, ‘Okay, let’s find a purpose,'” Preston said.
Victoria came up with the topic of what doesn’t burn after speaking to one of her clients in Ukraine. The client had built his house two years ago and she had landscaped the garden. “We had created this beautiful garden. Now everything was burned down. Everything was ashes. Nothing stays. My client said to me, ‘We’re going to plant a new garden.’”
Victoria wanted to show that the spirit of Ukrainians “cannot be extinguished”. “I wanted to show the ashes; to show that Ukrainians exist and are reborn, like a phoenix from these ashes,” she said.
The Global Impact Garden expresses Ukrainian culture and strength, as well as hope for the future. The remains of the burned-out hut are decorated rushnyka traditional embroidered cloth used in Ukrainian rituals on occasions such as births, weddings and funerals.
The cottage will be surrounded by plants native to the country including barley and hollyhocks. Field weeds such as wild carrot, chamomile and cornflower are sown around wild fruit trees such as wild pear. Inside the structure is a sculpture in the shape of a tryzubthe Ukrainian trident, modeled on the falcon, refers to the archetypal symbol of the phoenix rising from the flames.
The couple are relying on donations and goodwill to get the garden to Hampton Court in time for the festival, which runs July 4-9. With some sponsorship from the Guild of Landscape Architects of Ukraine, they hope to reuse the garden and take it to other countries to raise money to rebuild Ukraine’s green spaces.
Everything from playgrounds to centuries-old trees to gardening tools and machinery needs to be replaced or restored, Victoria said. Donations can be made online.
“Everyone knows how our cities were destroyed. Of course, everyone is thinking about how to provide shelter to people, but at the moment not about trees and parks and the places where people can relax after suffering war,” she said.
Preston said they didn’t want the garden to be “blossoming and fateful and heavy” for fear it might be too much for people’s visceral ways to bare the truth. So it’s about finding that balance, how not to avoid talking about how truly awful the situation is, but to bring it up in a way that expresses beauty, resilience and hope.”