Students and Veterans work together to create RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden
Military Help for Heroes and Sparsholt College have announced their partnership for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018.
Their garden, The Force for Good, will tell the powerful story of the role horticulture plays in the recovery and ongoing support of injured British Armed Forces personnel and their families. Individual stories are told through the three elements of the garden as the team of college and former-military gardeners inform visitors of the journey from injury or illness through to recovery and beyond. The Force for Good garden is a demonstration of how horticulture has given these individuals a second chance at life and how everyone can benefit from its therapeutic benefits.
Sparsholt College’s Horticulture students are working collaboratively with their Help for Heroes counterparts to design and create The Force for Good, a garden of three different sections. The students were inspired by conversations at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House in Wiltshire where those being supported by the charity take part in gardening activities.
Rachel Willis, an Army veteran from Salisbury travelled all over the world during her 21-year career until a back injury resulted in a medical discharge:
“My injuries left me in constant pain and fatigue, it was another ten years until I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Fibromyalgia in 2017.”
Speaking of the project she said:
“Getting involved in creating The Force for Good garden has made me realise there is more to me than just being ex-Army. It is opening lots of avenues in life I thought were closed or would never open. I’ve realised I can and actually want to learn, my brain was so frazzled before, I didn’t even want to think, let alone concentrate or take on board new information.”
The positioning and grouping of plants in the ‘Surviving’ section of the garden will show the disorientation, conflicting emotions and mental state of those being supported by Help for Heroes before they enter any recovery programme. As they progress through their journey to ‘Stability’, the garden will portray a number of horticultural activities undertaken at the four Recovery Centres nationwide with a focus on crop production and horticulture skills. The third and final section of the garden ‘Support’ will show how planting and landscaping, including a still pool and seating, can create an area promoting recovery and ongoing support. The stage when an individual becomes an active member of their community again, and can make a positive impact in society once more.
The garden will engage all of its visitors’ senses, using relevant sound tracks in each section. White noise will help convey chaos and confusion, natural sounds will give a sense of nature and the outdoors and a symphonic piece of music, composed especially for Help for Heroes, will provide the backdrop to peace, calm and relaxation.
Sparsholt College’s lecturer, horticulture and garden design expert Chris Bird is leading the student team:
“RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous show of its kind and whether you are an experienced, high-profile designer or just getting started in a horticulture career, it is an incredible, career-enhancing experience. We are very proud to be working alongside Help for Heroes to share the powerful stories of those the charity supports, whilst showcasing the therapeutic and restorative benefits gardening has for health and wellbeing.”
At least one in four people in the population will be affected by mental health issues in any one year and horticulture has been shown to help recovery and general mental wellbeing.* Working with plants and flowers or simply experiencing a beautiful green space can improve health and wellbeing, aid rehabilitation, reduce depression, anxiety and stress-related symptoms while also helping to improve self-esteem, confidence and mood. Gardening can positively impact a local community by bringing people together. Elements of The Force for Good garden will be re-homed following RHS Chelsea 2018, will be donated to community groups helping more people to learn, grow and heal through gardening.
Lucy Thorpe, Horticultural Therapist at Help for Heroes said:
“We are delighted that Sparsholt College students chose to focus on the recovery journey of wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans. We have seen first-hand how horticulture and nature courses have empowered Veterans. In some cases, this has led to those we support achieving a City and Guilds qualification and going onto study further RHS courses at Sparsholt college.”
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