"Gardens can help save the Planet"
WIMBLEDON GARDEN DESIGNER FELICITY O’ROURKE TELLS CLARE
MORRISROE HOW HER EXTINCTION GARDEN WAS
DESIGNED TO INSPIRE US TO RECONNECT WITH NATURE
It was a shocking scene that visitors to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival were not expecting: a full-size passenger jet crashed into the ground with suitcases spilling from the smoking fuselage.
Instead of colourful blooms, the award-winning show garden was littered with odd shoes, children’s toys and random holiday items. There was no fence – just the billowing yellow
tape of a police crime scene.
As she watched the reactions of the public, the garden’s creator, Felicity O’Rourke – a former airline pilot – could see her disturbingly powerful message was hitting home. That the human race is hurtling at great speed towards its own destruction.
‘The aircraft is one of mankind’s most notable achievements, while also contributing to climate change and now ironically to the rapid spread of Covid-19,’ says Felicity, who won an RHS silver medal for her Extinction Garden.
‘It addresses the sixth mass extinction threat to our planet, caused by our continual exploitation and destruction of its natural resources and ancient ecosystems.
‘Climate change is not just about the extinction of the orangutans in the Asian rainforests and polar bears on the melting ice caps. As the recent extreme and unpredictable weather events around the globe are demonstrating, the survival of our own species is now at risk, too.’
How to portray that in a garden was Felicity’s biggest challenge. ‘As a former commercial airline pilot, I wanted to shock people to take notice. To see a crashed airplane instils a
deep, visceral sense of loss. Without grief there can be no compassion – and without compassion there can be no motivation for change.’
Through the door of the wreckage is a forest of ancient plants, which existed long before humankind set foot on this planet and, says Felicity, will survive long after our own extinction. ‘We might be the dominant species on the earth but we are not superior. Recently we have become so detached from nature, we forget that we are nature. Now we must work with nature to protect our future.’
However, mum-of-three Felicity believes it’s not too late. ‘The agricultural, industrial and technology revolutions have brought huge achievements for humankind – but
they have also impacted the planet adversely. Now the scientific revolution is giving us the ability to monitor how these ‘achievements’ have tipped the global environmental
scales and threaten our future.
‘The recent pandemic has highlighted our incredible capacity to change in the face of an imminent threat. We now need to tackle climate change with the same urgency.’
And we can all do our bit to help. ‘Our gardens are mini ecosystems – collectively, gardens in the UK amount to the size of the Lake District and Peak District combined – which
emphasises the role we all have in contributing to a richer, greener and more diverse environment.’
Published in the METRO Tueday 3rd August, 2021