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RHS Chelsea: The Feel Good Garden

Designer Matthew Keightley in the RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle
Designer Matthew Keightley in the RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle

How horticulture can benefit mental health

The RHS’s Feel Good Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show has been pledged to the Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust site in London.

Rapper, singer and songwriter, Professor Green, who has spoken out about his depression, officially opened the garden, which looks at how gardening can help with wellbeing and mental health.

Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust won a competition to receive the garden, which was launched to mark the value of gardening to mental health and wellbeing in the 70th anniversary year of the founding of the NHS.

Three-quarters of all NHS mental health trusts in England entered the competition and it will be adapted for the trust’s site.

Officials have announced that RHS gardens from the next two years of the show will be given to NHS patients.

The RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle
The RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle

Gardening for health forum

The show has been hosting a “gardening for health” forum, which will look at ways to promote non-medical treatments such as gardening or getting out into nature, for mental health, also known as “social prescribing”, alongside traditional measures.

Sue Biggs, RHS director general, said: “We passionately believe that everyone should have access to gardens and getting our Chelsea Gardens living on is a core part of our Greening Grey Britain Campaign to transform grey spaces to green places for the nation’s health, happiness and for the environment.

“We’re committed to continuing to work with the NHS for at least the next two years to share our gardening knowledge and help more patients and staff to grow.”

Professor Tim Kendall, NHS national director for mental health, said: “The therapeutic value of spending time gardening and in green spaces is increasingly recognised, which is what has made this partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society so exciting.

“More and more, patients and their doctors are looking beyond medicines and traditional treatments, through a range of activities, including exercise, gardening and nature.”

The RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle
The RHS Feel Good Garden. Picture; RHS/Sarah Cuttle

The Feel Good Garden

Designer: Matt Keightley. Contractor: Rosebank Landscaping

The RHS Feel Good Garden was designed by twice-winner of the RHS/BBC People’s Choice, Matt Keightley, and highlights how gardening, and simply being in a garden or green space, can make you feel happier and healthier.

The design has been inspired by Matt’s upcoming development of a health and wellbeing themed garden at RHS Garden Wisley, which will open in 2020.

An elegant balance of exciting, decisive and restrained planting intertwined with innovative stonework, these are the main elements:

Paths: Organic in form, paths have been designed to entice people to move through, pause and quietly contemplate the garden. The layout provides multiple routes.

Planting: Full of texture, colour and fragrance, the planting aims to draw visitors towards the corner of main avenue.

Trees: Honey locusts have been chosen for their elegant and light canopy. The tall, clear stems dance through the planting, leading the eye gradually around the garden.

Furniture: Tactile timber benches and stools offer a variety of vistas in and around the garden.

Terraces: The stone terraces are sculptural, seemingly balancing within millimetres of the piece of stone below. Heavy-looking stone will be cantilevered and appear to float above streams of fragrant planting.

Planting/colour scheme: A vibrant and elegant mix of perennials and grasses punctuated with evergreen ‘mounds’. Colours are cool and muted with bursts of intensity and textural changes to help draw the eye through the scheme. The planting will envelop visitors and make them feel completely at ease.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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