For the first time, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Groundwork have united for the world’s largest annual flower show, to raise awareness of the extraordinary difference community gardeners are making to Britain today. Landscape designer and broadcaster, Chris Beardshaw, has designed the biggest feature for RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012 (3-8 July), to champion the impact of this work.
Photo by Henry/Bragg. Cable Street Allotments, part of Tower Hamlets in Bloom.
The Urban Oasis garden, sponsored by M&S, was inspired by Groundwork and RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood (IYN) projects that Chris Beardshaw visited across the country. It is a vast 1,600m² representation of the wonderful ways that neglected public spaces can be transformed into beautiful and productive community havens. With mature trees loaned by Majestic Trees, garden features include Derelict Space, Gated Alleyway, Community Allotment, Community Garden and Community Orchard.
Community gardening is very much of the moment and, through the Urban Oasis garden, both the RHS and Groundwork are keen to draw attention to it in the hope of inspiring even more people to sign up to projects. Despite council cuts and extreme weather changes, there has been a 10% increase in the number of IYN and Britain in Bloom groups signed up this year.
The RHS community campaigns engage more than 200,000 volunteers and Groundwork work in 98% of the most deprived areas of Britain. Together, Groundwork and IYN volunteers invest over a million days of community gardening each year, looking after an estimated 56,000 acres of public space, the equivalent of 165 Hyde Parks.
Chris Beardshaw says: “The green space around us has a fundamental effect on our emotions and behaviour. It’s well documented that in areas where these spaces are neglected there is strong evidence of social unrest and it is easy to see why when you stand in these spaces yourself.
“Evidence shows that access to green space that is looked after transforms peoples’ lives and plays a fundamental part in drawing communities together: as a consequence, communities see reductions in crime, stress levels and neglect and an increase in neighbourliness, community spirit, social mobility and economic investment to name but a few of the benefits. The important aspect of this joint initiative is that it involves everyone from every walk of life.”
More than 50% of recipients to an RHS survey said that anti-social behaviour and crime had dropped, 90% said the biggest impact was a stronger community and 40% reported their campaigns produced a safer environment. A recent Groundwork survey showed that 79% of people the charity works with feel their neighbourhood has improved.
After the show the gardens will be relocated to communities in need of urban green space in London, Birmingham, Ellesmere Port and Merthyr Tydfil.
Community gardening makes up a central theme for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year. Features include Social Deckworking, which was inspired by the need to encourage teens to get outside and socialise, rather than to shut themselves away indoors. Award-winning designers Anthea Guthrie and Nicole Burnett are showing how to convert wasteland into a community garden for Preserving the Community. Other features around this theme include Wheels of Time, in association with Southend Youth Offending Service, Falling Leaves and The Edible Bus Stop which, inspired by last year’s UK riots, aims to illustrate the benefits of green space and the idea of reclaiming forgotten and neglected spaces.
This will be the fifth Urban Oasis exhibit in a series of show gardens by Groundwork and the RHS to bring to life some of the most challenging urban environments where gardening and community work have brought people together and yielded powerful social benefits. The partnership is a fitting tribute to celebrate Groundwork’s 30th birthday and the RHS’s ongoing commitment to supporting community gardeners.
About the gardens
For the first time ever, the RHS will be working in partnership to bring an exhibit to every RHS Flower Show this season, starting with Cardiff:
• RHS Show Cardiff: 20 – 22 April 2012
• Malvern Spring Gardening Show: 10 – 13 May 2012
• RHS Chelsea Flower Show: 22 – 26 May 2012
• BBC Gardeners’ World Live 13 – 17 June 2012
• RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: 03 – 08 July 2012
• RHS Flower Show Tatton Park: 18 – 22 July 2012
About RHS Britain in Bloom and RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood
RHS Britain in Bloom and RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood help more than 2,800 communities around the UK to improve their local environment. Using gardening as a tool, volunteers in cities, towns, villages, urban communities and neighbourhoods work together to make positive changes that touch the lives of millions. To find out more, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities
Groundwork is the community charity with a green heart. We want places to look better, streets to be safer and outside areas to be green and beautiful. We want people of all ages to be able to do stuff together to make the best of where they live. We want to improve job prospects by offering training and employment opportunities. We want to show people how they can make their homes and workplaces better for the environment and cheaper to run.
About Groundwork and Marks & Spencer
Groundwork and Marks & Spencer have a long and fruitful history of working together to improve the quality of life in communities across the UK. We have created or improved 100 ‘Greener Living Spaces’ together funded from the 1.85p profit on each M&S 5p food carrier bag sold. Our ‘@myurbangreen campaign is helping communities to shape the future development, maintenance and management of their local green space.
About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s foremost gardening charity, helping and inspiring millions of people to garden. We do this at our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes. The RHS community programmes support more than 5,000 community groups around the UK, including those involved in the Bloom and Neighbourhood campaigns. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.
Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.