Chelsea Fringe 2013: London's alternative garden festival

The eccentric Chelsea Fringe garden festival is set to get London blooming this month.
The Chelsea Fringe is the anarchic garden festival you can’t miss — because it’s everywhere on the streets of London, starting on Saturday. Supported by the National Trust and with its own edition of the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time from Hoxton on May 24, the Fringe will have London blooming with all manner of horticultural happenings for a flower-filled three weeks.

London's Chelsea Fringe festival: May 18 to June 9, 2013
Click here for our festival map and programme of events

“I’m thrilled that the Fringe looks set to double this year, with a rich mix of almost 200 events for Londoners to pick from,” said its founder, the garden writer and historian Tim Richardson. “And the good news is that almost everything is free.”

Chelsea Fringe
Ladies who lunch can pick herbs and petals for a face pack, cocktail and snack at the Brunel Museum Rooftop Garden Pamper Day on June 4

It is also delightfully batty. You can join guerrilla knitters at Spitalfields City Farm’s yarn-bombing event, to help deck trees with free-form knitting and crochet, or join a plant-swap session at Battersea Power Station; just drop your plant on to a moving conveyor belt and wait until another one zips along that takes your fancy.

Chelsea Fringe
The festival features lots of alternative ideas for planting flowers
London's 'edible high roads'
You can be planted, knee-deep, in piles of soil at the same iconic venue along with 50 other volunteers on May 18, to create a “living orchard” of people, but you might prefer the more conventional kind of orchard, which will be popping up on the streets as part of the Edible High Roads event throughout the Fringe, with 22 fruit trees down the Salusbury Road in Queens Park, 30 lining Askew Road, Hammersmith, and 50 gracing Forest Hill.

Chiswick will have a mile-long nectar garden of 60 herbal planters along its three main shopping streets, organised by Abundance London, who will be throwing a street party on Saturday with promises of herbal bread-kneading, willow weaving and fragrant gin gardens.

Tour Battersea Park's Old English Garden
No London garden, however, can possibly be as fragrant as the Old English Garden in Battersea Park, so follow your nose next week to the perfumed plot maintained by horticultural charity Thrive. Its experts will be taking tours among the lavender and roses, at 11am and 1.30pm. Book your free place now.

Urban foragers and foodies are indulged at this year’s Fringe, with a Green Salad Walk in Hither Green and a Raw and More picnic on Portobello Road. Ladies who lunch can pick herbs and petals for their own face pack, cocktail and snack at the Brunel Museum Rooftop Garden Pamper Day, June 4, with The Cocktail Gardener, The Perfume Mistress and wild gourmet chefs The Foragers, for £30. With space for only 15, you’ll need to book fast.

For dinner with a difference, reserve a place at the Dinner to Dye For, Oxford House, Bethnal Green, on June 1: the Permacouture Institute shows you how to create colours from the city’s weeds and dye a stash of silk, then, for an encore, serves you delectable botanical dishes washed down with a crisp chamomile-infused cava.

Chelsea Fringe
The wetlands bug tower
Join the Teatime Wonder Game at Battersea Power Station
If tea parties are more your pace, join one that puts the Mad Hatter’s in the shade — the Teatime Wonder Game at Battersea Power Station on May 25.

Expect a mist-shrouded table decked with a cornucopia of crockery and if you find yourself seated in front of the cup inscribed “Drink Me”, you might win the secret treasure... you will, at any rate, be part of the surreal performance from Figmentation Art Collective.

Mint Tea and Sympathy in Notting Hill
The KLC School of Design offers a more practical teatime pursuit on all four Saturdays of the Fringe, in the form of a Mint Tea and Sympathy session at Notting Hill’s The Idler Academy, where you can chat to experts in a stunning garden. The advice is free, tea’s extra.

Tweet the Dawn Chorus
The Chelsea Fringe is all about celebrating summer in the city, so on the last day of the event, June 9, join the joyful tweets of birdsong and poets alike for the festival’s own version of the Dawn Chorus.

At eight National Trust venues, including Osterley House, artists and poets will be tweeting their impressions of the dawn, and encouraging you to tweet, too, from your own back garden.

Chelsea Fringe
© Paul Debois
Several streets in London will be turned into edible high roads, including 22 fruit trees placed in Salusbury Road and 50 lining Forest Hill

For details on all events, see or find the free Chelsea Fringe app at the App Store.

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