by Zoë Levey

The world’s greatest gardening event – the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – starts on Tuesday 23rd May, and this year sees the spirit of gardening for the community coming through stronger than ever. Showing that it’s very much in touch, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has a clear focus on the concept of giving back and is doing incredible work to support an array of important charities.

The RHS is working Project Giving Back, the organisation which is funding a series of gardens to raise awareness of a range of amazing causes With nearly 170,000 visitors and an audience of millions across TV and the media, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an unparalleled global platform for good causes to raise awareness and funds. Project Giving Back (PGB) is making it possible for a diverse range of charities to have a presence at the show.

Design Cleve West has designed a garden supporting Centrepoint is the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, providing young people with accommodation, health support and life skills to get them back into education, training and employment. The garden explores the notion of ‘home’ to recognise the charity’s work in supporting young people who are experiencing homelessness. Elements of the garden will be distributed to Centrepoint’s service locations in the UK following the show.

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Jonathan Davies and Steve Williams have designed the Centre for Mental Health’s The Balance Garden. The concept is to create a forward-thinking community space celebrating the relationship between authentic nature connection and our urban communities’ mental health.

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Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg have designed Horatio’s Garden, which will be ‘a garden of sanctuary and hope’. It embraces the mission of Horatio’s Garden charity to create and nurture beautiful, accessible and sustainable gardens in spinal centres for everyone affected by life-changing spinal injuries.

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Chris Beardshaw’s ‘A Life Worth Living’ garden marks 25 years since Chris earned his first Gold Medal at the show. His chosen charity is Myeloma UK, which works to find a cure for rare blood cancers which affects almost 200,000 people worldwide.

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Darren Hawkes has created The Samaritans’ Listening Garden, which is intended to be ‘a safe and secure space where people can feel comfortable sharing their internal struggles’, and to raise awareness of the leading charity working to reduce suicide and provide emotional support to those at risk.

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The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space has been created by designer Charlie Hawkes alongside people living with rare dementias, to offer a refuge for exploration and calm navigation. And animals will also have their own sanctuary with the RSPCA’s wildlife friendly garden by first-time Chelsea designer Martyn Wilson, blending a space for both humans and creatures to live safely in harmony with each other.

Following its successful debut in the Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea 2022, the ‘All About Plants’ category will increase from four to six gardens next year. Each garden has been designed in collaboration with a UK charity to reflect their individual causes using a minimum of 80% planting, highlighting the vital role specialist growers play within UK horticulture. Following the show, all of the gardens will live on at the charities’ chosen locations, from Glasgow to Kent.

The arts offer inspiration across three of these gardens – Nicola Semple and Susan Begg are bringing a ‘dolly mixture’ palette of candelabra primula to the Teapot Trust Elsewhere Garden. Based on the Scottish charity’s work using art therapy to help children coping with chronic conditions, the exuberant planting will celebrate the magic of their imagination.

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Joe and Laura Carey will integrate 250 porcelain butterflies amongst their textural planted garden to express how Talitha Arts harness the power of creativity for people suffering trauma.

Elsewhere, Sadler’s Wells dance company will celebrate their new community performance space in East London with a garden designed by Alexa Ryan-Mills that puts plants front of stage as the stars of the show.

The School Food Matters Garden features 80 per cent edible plants and promotes the campaign for every child to have access to a healthy lunch at school and aims to teach children about growing their own food. The garden is an immersive, forageable and naturalistic landscape where children can explore nature and be inspired by a diverse range of edible, climate-adapted plants along the way.

Sophie Allport has collaborated with the Chelsea Pensioners charity with an exclusive limited-edition Chelsea Flower Show collection, which features a mug, tea towel and signed print. 10% of net sales made from the product range will be donated to the charity to help look after former soldiers of the British Army.

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And the RHS themselves are leading the way, with their collaboration with the Eastern Eye newspaper to present ‘A Garden of Unity’. Joining forces along with garden designer Manoj Malde, the RHS’ Ambassador for diversity and inclusivity, this garden aims to promote horticulture for everyone, everywhere. Clare Matterson, RHS Director General says; “Gardening is a universal language.  It transcends borders and cultures to bring people together in a shared endeavour to create a better future.  It can touch many people in many ways throughout a lifetime: marking seasons, creating memories, celebrating life’s big and small moments, and teaching us patience, adaptability, and resilience.

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The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by the Newt in Somerset, runs from 22 to 27 May.

For ticket information, visit RHS.org.uk/chelsea