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'RHS Garden for Friendship' unveiled for Chelsea

Loneliness is a key issue in the UK today and the RHS and NHS will again be joining forces through the RHS Garden for Friendship to promote gardens and gardening for good mental health, which is something that both Zoe and Jo believe strongly in and attracted them to this project.

Professor Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for Mental Health for NHS England and NHS Improvement says; “Loneliness has a debilitating impact on both our mental and physical health with links to problems like drug abuse, eating disorders and depression.

“Everyone involved with this garden hopes it encourages people to think about and care for people around them and consider taking part in community activities, like gardening, to create more friendly, happier places to live.”

The RHS Garden for Friendship will reflect an urban street and promote greening up front gardens, balconies, window boxes and community spaces. It will show-case ideas for people to plant up their streets to create more colourful, happier places that bring people together and are also better for the environment.

With a recent survey* to 2,000 people showing that more than half of adults ‘enjoy’ being surrounded by greenery and a further 53 per cent said it boosts their mood, this garden will encourage people to get together and green up their streets for their health and wellbeing and to make new friends. Some 52 per cent of people in Britain said they have experienced feeling alone.

In the ‘courtyard area’ there will be a welcoming space where people can get together and get to know their neighbours. Jo and Zoe are exploring further ideas that will make this an entertaining space that could come to life at night with community social events.

As well as roses, poppies, an abundance of edible herbs and delicious vegetables, there will be trees in the form of multi-stemmed Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis 'Sunburst' (honey locust) and the lime Tilia × euchlora growing in the garden.

Zoe, a passionate gardener who regularly talks about what she grows on her BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, is looking forward to learning from Jo and through the experience of creating a garden at the world’s most famous flower show. She has shared with Jo some of her favourite plants to feature in the garden and ideas to bring communities together.

Zoe Ball says: “It’s a total honour and treat to be involved with RHS Chelsea on such a special project. I love the idea of a community creating green spaces. The perfect plot for meeting other folk whilst sharing plants and tips. I’m also thrilled to be working with the NHS to understand how gardening and growing is a positive step for our mental health. After meeting with the ace Jo Thompson, I can’t wait to visit the nurseries to help choose the plants and then, get digging!”

Jo Thompson says: “As well as so many other benefits, just the mere fact that greening the front of your property and streets gets you outside means there is more chance of seeing people and starting up conversations with your neighbours to help build a friendly community.

“This garden will be brimming with accessible ideas that don’t need to cost much, like window boxes with plants that can be grown from seed, but collectively can make a big positive difference to where we live.

“It’s brilliant having Zoe involved, she’s such an enthusiastic gardener and we’re both excited about bringing this garden to life.”

A national RHS competition will see one NHS Mental Health Trust winning the plants and some of the landscaping from the RHS Garden for Friendship to create a garden for patients and staff to relax in and enjoy after the Show. The judging panel will be made up of Professor Tim Kendall, Zoe Ball, Jo Thompson and RHS Chief Horticulturist, Guy Barter.

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This story was published on: 24/01/2020

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