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Hwang Jihae returns to Chelsea in 2023 with her third garden

Korean garden designer and environmental artist Hwang Jihae will be returning to the Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 with a show garden titled “A Letter from a Million Years Past”. The news was released at a press conference at RHS Linley Hall in central London today. Hwang won Gold Medal and Best Artisan Garden in 2011 with her “Haewooso” garden, and Gold Medal and RHS President’s Award in 2012 for her “DMZ Quiet Time” show garden.

Her 2023 show garden takes its inspiration from the landscape and ecosystem of Jirisan (Jiri Mountain), the highest mountain on mainland South Korea and fondly known as Korea’s “mother mountain”. Jirisan is home to the last remaining virgin forest in Korea, and was the country’s first National Park. Jirisan is known for the quality of its medicinal herbs, and the garden draws inspiration from the herb habitat on the eastern side of the mountain where the plants draw their energy from the early morning sunlight.

“I plan to evoke the ancient feel of the forest and present visitors with an experience of peace, calm, sound and smell, and also an opportunity to trace hidden tracks of ecology,” says Hwang.

Land of Healing rendering

A feature of the garden will be a 5 metre high tower, constructed from reclaimed timbers with a clay and sand render, reproducing a traditional Korean structure in which medicinal herbs are dried for future use.

“In Korea, like many native cultures, we have used mountain herbs as medicine for centuries, which has developed and incorporated into Oriental Medicine of today. In this garden we learn how medical herbs and plants can flourish,” explains Hwang. The garden will contain large rocks which in the natural environment protect the small plants and form the base of a complex ecosystem. The water flowing over the rocks provide the plants with air humidity in the dry season.

The plants selected have a range of medicinal uses, from stress relief to the treatment of skin disease. All of these rare or specialty plants grow in a particular valley in Jirisan whose habitat this garden reproduces. Some of the representative species of native plants will be germinated in a UK nursery from seeds collected in Korea. Some of these medicinal plants were nearly extinct through environmental degradation and over-harvesting, but are now thriving on Jirisan as a result of a recent conservation and rewilding project. Thus the garden demonstrates the interdependent relationship between human health and the health of the natural environment.

The garden’s sponsors are the Korea Forest Service, Hoban Cultural Foundation and MUUM Ltd.


Note: this article has been edited to reflect changes in the project as it has developed over the months. The latest official press release can be found here.

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