Chelsea Flower Show bemoans gardening 'lost generation'

London (AFP) - Britain has a "lost generation" with no gardening skills, the Royal Horticultural Society warned on Monday, as its sprawling Chelsea Flower Show got under way with an inauguration by Queen Elizabeth II.

"The lost generation are the ones from their mid-twenties to forties," RHS director-general Sue Biggs was quoted as saying in The Times newspaper.

"For a lot of them, their parents just didn't teach them gardening and we lost a lot of the skills."

Fewer than one percent of parents were taught gardening at school, compared with 55 percent of grandparents and 40 percent of children, according to a survey conducted by the RHS in 2011.

This year's Chelsea Flower Show in London features a "modern slavery garden" by the show's first black designer, Juliet Sargeant, as well as a garden watered, lit and heated with a mobile phone app and an "acoustic garden" which plays musical notes to visitors.

A field of some 300,000 knitted red poppies was also unveiled as a tribute to Britain's war dead, along with interlocking portraits of the queen made using 10,000 flowers in purples, pinks and oranges.

One of the most talked-about gardens was the "Harrods Eccentric British Garden" that "puts on a performance with mechanical buzzings and whirrings, box balls that bob up and down and conical bay trees that begin to twirl," the RHS said.

The RHS is using the Chelsea Flower Show to promote its "Greening Grey Britain" campaign, warning that too many gardens are being paved over by Britons to make car parking spaces or patios for barbecues.

The number of traditional front gardens that have no vegetation has trebled in the past decade to five million, the RHS said.

"What happened to our nation of gardeners?" Biggs asked.

Some 160,000 visitors are expected at the Chelsea Flower Show this year.