Chelsea Flower Show gets an erotic 'Lady Garden' in new feminist space

Naughticultural! Chelsea Flower Show gets an erotic ‘Lady Garden’ based on female genitalia in new feminist space

  • The display has plants and sculptures echoing ‘the curves of the female form’ 
  • It will also feature a 6ft7ins iris sculpture inspired by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe
  • But detractors claim it is sexist and lowers the tone of the Chelsea Flower Show   
  • The display, sponsored by Body Shop, can be seen at the event from May 19-23
  • At the end of the event, the garden will be transplanted to its HQ in West Sussex 

As a bastion of tradition, the Chelsea Flower Show has few peers.

It’s an annual fixture for the Royal Family, and showcases Britain’s finest horticulture to almost 160,000 visitors from all over the world.

But if you go down to its beds and plots this year, be sure of a big surprise – in the shape of a garden based on female genitalia.

The display, sponsored by The Body Shop, features plants and sculptures echoing ‘the curves of the female form’. It will also feature a 6ft 7in iris sculpture inspired by erotic paintings

Branded vulgar and pathetic by critics – not least for its euphemistic name, The Lady Garden – it is meant to be a feminist space, with plants and sculptures echoing ‘the curves of the female form’.

The display, which is sponsored by the Body Shop, will also feature a 6ft 7in iris sculpture inspired by the erotic floral paintings by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. US botanist Jennifer Hirsch says her garden design will highlight ‘what makes women different from men’, challenge ‘social taboos’ and champion ‘feminist values’.

But detractors claim it is sexist and lowers the tone of the Royal Horticultural Society event, which runs from May 19 to 23. Professor Stefan Buczacki, the former chairman of Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4, said: ‘If this is the best they can do at the world’s finest horticultural show, I think it is pretty pathetic.

‘Call me old-fashioned but I know the difference between men and women. I don’t need a genitalia garden to demonstrate it. I am a huge admirer of women and largely prefer their company to men. But if I were a woman I would be offended by this.

‘It is pretty sexist. They don’t need a Chelsea garden to tell them they are unique and I don’t suppose there is going to be a male equivalent with a giant phallic symbol next door.

‘Chelsea should be about gardens, not offending, shocking or empowering people by trying to get a message across.’

The Body Shop is exhibiting at the show for the first time. At the end of the event, the garden will be transplanted to its HQ in Littlehampton, West Sussex

The Duchess of Cambridge at her Back to Nature gardens, which were displayed last year at the Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 

Miss Hirsch has planted the garden with species used in herbal medicine for women’s reproductive health to ‘help reshape conversation and perspectives’. She said: ‘The garden’s name is cheeky, but The Body Shop has always been irreverent.

‘The whole plan was to be more audacious than the RHS would be comfortable with. For Chelsea, the idea that a garden can be a tool for a relatively political or social conversation is an unusual one.

‘But that is The Body Shop all over, wanting to disrupt the norm. I was not sure that the RHS would go for it, but it has been enthusiastic and supportive. The garden is a conversation around… the uniqueness of women.’

The Body Shop is exhibiting at the show for the first time. At the end of the event, the garden will be transplanted to its HQ in Littlehampton, West Sussex.

Linda Campbell, the firm’s managing director, said: ‘The Body Shop has always been proud to ignite conversation and drive action for positive social change.

‘We hope this garden, which celebrates our feminist founding principles, will provide a beautiful and thought-provoking space in which we can further open up the dialogue surrounding female health and empowerment.’

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