Refugee charity Choose Love has made its RHS Chelsea Flower Show debut this week, with a garden that reflects themes of journeying and home and is set to become a community garden following the show.
The charity has been given the opportunity to present a garden in the All About Plants category at the event, created by designer Jane Porter, who was a gold medallist at last year’s show.
Porter’s design reflects the relationship between movement and permanence and is inspired by refugee migration routes across Europe and the concept of desire lines, which are paths created where no formal routes exist.
The medicinal herb Ozothamnus hookeri (Kerosene bush) from Jekka McVicar’s herb nursery features along with a range of herbs that originate from the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. Some of these are grown by refugee gardeners living in the UK. Damask and Gallica roses are also be used, to evoke a sense of the past, along with historic Iris from the Cayeux nursery in France that are inspired by species native to the Middle East.
A dry stream bed path representing waterway migrations and a tree shaped by the wind also features to convey the uncertainty and flux in the lives of displaced people.
Describing her inspiration for the garden and connection to the charity, Jane Porter said:
“I’ve been aware of the work of Choose Love since they started in 2015 – my sister Dawn was one of the founders. I am inspired by what they have achieved, their positive message of resilience and sense of optimism. In this garden we see linear drifts of the plants that are found along now established migration routes and discover what people grow when they don’t know when or if they’ll return home – when the act of planting becomes an act of hope.”
Josie Naughton, Co-Founder and CEO of Choose Love commented:
“It is an absolute dream come true to have a garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, for the first time and such an honour to be collaborating with the brilliant Jane Porter. We can’t wait to meet new people who love plants, gardening and growing. The desire to tend the earth, grow for food or for pleasure is a universal human experience. Increasingly it feels like we’re living in a very polarised society and in polarised spaces online so finding ways for us to connect and have conversations is really important.”
A new home following the show
Later in the summer, after RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the Choose Love Garden will be relocated to Good Food Matters in Croydon – a community food learning centre and garden that runs bespoke programmes for groups including people who have been forced to flee their homes.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show charity gardens
RHS Chelsea Flower Show gives charities the opportunity to have a garden through its Project Giving Back initiative. All gardens supported must showcase the best in plants and design and tell a strong and engaging story about the work of a UK-registered charity. It is also a requirement that gardens are relocated to a permanent home after the show so they can live on and create a lasting legacy for the causes they support. This year there are 6 charity gardens in this category, including Choose Love’s:
All About Plants Gardens
The Natural Affinity Garden for Aspens, designed by Camellia Taylor
Choose Love Garden, designed by Jane Porter
The Sadler’s Wells East Garden, designed by Alexa Ryan-Mills
School Food Matters Garden, designed by Harry Holding
The Talitha Arts Garden, designed by Joe and Laura Carey
The Teapot Trust Elsewhere Garden, designed by Susan Begg and Nicola Semple
There are also two charity gardens in its Sanctuary Gardens category, and seven large show gardens.
The All About Plants gardens, a new category that was introduced in 2022, are staged inside the Great Pavilion. Most are created by Chelsea first time designers helping to encourage new talent. These gardens aim to put the focus firmly on the plants, so 80% of their area must be planted material and designers have been asked to seek out specialist plant nurseries to supply them.
The Sanctuary Gardens are smaller outdoor show gardens ranging from conceptual to more traditional designs, and are designed to offer havens of peace and reflection, as well as practical gardening ideas to take home.
This year, these are:
The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space Garden, designed by Charlie Hawkes
The RSPCA Garden, designed by Martyn Wilson