Made in Chelsea: Inside this year’s flower show
- Credit: Archant
Gardening columnist Debbie McMorran was struck by the strong focus on children and gardening at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
If we are to continue to supply food to sustain the existence of the human race (sounds dramatic doesn't it?!) it's important for us to encourage children to gain an interest in gardening - something that really seems to be looming large in the arena of garden design at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.
The Discovery Zone exhibit 'Helping Children Grow' celebrates National Children's Gardening Week, which runs from May 25 to June 2, and shows how even very simple projects can get children engaged in gardening
Similarly, in the Space to Grow gardens, The Montessori Centenary Children's Garden offers an insight into the Montessori way of teaching - allowing the children to learn about the natural world, whilst being set alongside technology.
Perhaps the garden which is likely to attract the most press coverage of all throughout the week is the RHS's own efforts with their feature garden, Back to Nature Garden.
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Designed in part by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, this garden is linked with the RHS partnership with NHS England in "promoting the physical and emotional wellbeing that access to green spaces and gardening provides".
Its woodland setting is designed to make nature accessible to children who may not have much outdoor space of their own at home, but who may have the opportunity to visit local woodland or green spaces.
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Unfortunately it is often the case for those living in deprived inner city areas that these localities are not particularly accessible due to transport or location issues. I would love to see this idea explored further in future gardens, and particularly council initiatives to build more spaces for children for whom these wonderful spaces and resources are not readily available.
As much as I found the gardens designed with a focus on children and gardening education interesting, there were four gardens which really left an impact on me, and which I will be watching intently during the week to find out how they have fared in the prize giving.
The first three of these can largely be grouped together. Not that they are similar to each other in anything other than cause, but they have all been sponsored by different charities. The two smaller 'artisan' gardens that I really fell in love with were The High Maintenance Garden for Motor Neurone Disease Association, and the Family Monsters Garden sponsored by idverde and Family Action. The way in which nature had reclaimed the space in the High Maintenance Garden was so hugely familiar - anyone who has ever come across an old building, or an unlived in house where the garden seems to have taken over, would appreciate the minute detail which has gone into this garden.
Symbolic of the way in which MND attacks the body, when the mind and senses are still active - this garden really provoked a sense of sadness - the car symbolising the retirement that the owner had hoped for, before the disease took hold. Family Action and idverde are both celebrating landmark years this year - with Family Action marking 150 years of giving support to families within the UK, and idverde celebrating 100 years of creating landscapes for local communities. The two together have created a wonderful space - with birch and hazel coppice creating a shelter and 'refuge'.
The garden is representative of the many problems that families can face nowadays, with financial, health and work pressures all impacting; the space that has been created is tranquil, and allows the families space to discuss and face their monsters.
The third garden that really impacted on me was The Greenfingers Charity Garden, designed by local garden designer Kate Gould. I'm not embarrassed to say that I was moved to tears when speaking to two of the directors from the Greenfingers Charity, who put gardens into children's hospices. These incredibly special places are designed to give comfort, relaxation, and a chance for families to make memories together that will sustain them in the difficult years to come.
When speaking with both Kate and the two directors of the charity, Linda Petrons and Sally Jenkins, I asked whether it was a really sad thing to do - as a parent, the thought of spending any time in a children's hospice is more than I can bear. But Linda so perfectly summed it up for me: "Children's hospices are nothing like adult hospices. Adult hospices are about dying, whereas children's hospices are about living."
The garden itself had areas suitable for children to play, whilst feeling cosy and private, allowing families a special place to spend time together. An accessible lift was discreetly included to allow access to the upper deck - another area to relax - not forgetting that the gardens are also for the benefit of family members and carers. The strong use of the colour green in the planting schemes, and in the architectural framework of the garden added a further soothing atmosphere, whilst reflecting the name of the charity.
The final garden which truly stole my heart was the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. From the moment I saw it - complete with canal lock, and trickling water - I was instantly transported straight to the countryside. Standing in a busy part of central London, there was nothing but peace and tranquillity in the garden, designed by Mark Gregory. The planting was absolutely perfect - from the trees, and water dwelling plants that you would find growing in a canal, to nettles framing the border of the garden - everything about it was so realistic that I wanted to walk onto the garden and never leave.
As is always the case, I have come away from Chelsea with a head full of ideas, and a shopping list full of David Austin roses. If you are looking for some inspiration, there will be coverage on the BBC throughout the remainder of the week!