This is the exact spot where I stood as a student in 1997 when I arrived to help the wonderful Lady Xa Tollemache of Helmingham Hall Gardens on her RHS Chelsea garden for The Evening Standard way back in 1997. I was signed up to stay for a day as an extra pair of hands during planting, and ended up staying for the whole week.
Who’d have thought that day would ultimately lead to one of the proudest moments of my life, being introduced to Her Majesty The Queen on my 2016 ‘Greening Grey Britain for Health, Happiness and Horticulture’ Garden for The Royal Horticultural Society.
The garden sought to inspire everyone to make their front garden beautiful, as part of the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign. “We couldn’t feel more passionate about this campaign,” I said back then, “These days, so many front gardens in the UK are paved over for parking, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I want future generations to be proud of their front gardens and be encouraged to go on and make their own. I’d love to see roads lined with plants, to be enjoyed by front garden owners, passers-by, whole communities, and wildlife. Of course, there are the environmental benefits to consider too.”
I feel the very same way today.
This garden was the very first walk through garden space at RHS Chelsea, (I wanted visitors to experience the garden from inside the space rather than looking from the outside as is usual), and within it, I hoped to demonstrate just what can be achieved in a small space, no matter what your age, income bracket, ethnicity or horticultural interest. Designed as an ‘everyman’ garden I hoped there would be something for everyone to enjoy.
As well as tackling our front gardens, the garden celebrated the health and happiness that can be achieved through gardening. Scientific research is finally available to back up what we gardeners have known for years – gardening is great for our physical and mental well-being, and in lockdown I’m sure many of us will attest how our gardens are keeping us going spiritually, physically and emotionally too.
With thanks to The Outdoor Room, Hortus Loci, London Stone, Living Green Design, Location Landscapes, Sneebeor Tools, Indoor Garden Design, Made by Moore, and of course The Royal Horticultural Society.