Kings College wellbeing garden

RHS horticultural students design and build a wellbeing garden for Guildford’s community groups

Rebuild relationships through nature

Five years ago Kings College secondary school in Guildford was deemed to be in ‘Special Measures’ by Ofsted, but they have turned this around to be rated ‘Good’ within 18 months and are now aiming for an ‘Outstanding’ ranking. 

They hope that the creation of a new community garden will help rebuild their connections with local residents and businesses, as well as supporting students' wellbeing. That’s why the school began working with horticulture students at RHS Garden Wisley, who aim to design and build a garden for a local good cause each year.

Bringing the community together

RHS horticultural students were asked to pitch a multi-functional space, suitable for not only the Kings College students and faculty but also four organisations in their local area:

  • Guildford Grove – a neighbouring primary school.
  • The Lighthouse – a specialist centre for deaf children and their families.
  • The Hive – a local community space that caters to families and elderly residents.
  • The Fountain Centre – who support people with cancer and their families.

Designed with wellbeing in mind

RHS student Emma Leaper was chosen as the winning designer by a panel of pupils and staff from King College and The Hive. Along with her fellow students, Emma has been working hard to bring her design to life.

Emma designed a dynamic space where different parts of the community can learn and grow together, with plenty of room to socialise, relax and reflect among soft, sensory planting, shady trees and productive crops.

The garden has been a hit with students at the school. One pupil said: “The garden is a nice place to sit and it will make the school feel less like a school.”

Emma’s top tips for designing a new garden:

  • Select plants for the site you have – I chose drought tolerant plants for an exposed site with free-draining soil.

  • New plantings need plenty of water while they get established, especially if planted in the summer!
  • Include a composting area – it’s a free and easy way to make your own soil improver.

  • Consider wildlife – leaving a long grass area over the summer is a simple thing we can all do to help. Sources of water like a pond is another fantastic resource for increasing biodiversity in a garden.

Horticulture student Emma Leaper in the garden she designed for the Kings College school, Guildford

“As a horticultural student this project has pushed me out of my comfort zone, I’ve developed my skills in design, project management, budgeting and leadership. I can’t think of any other course which could have offered me this opportunity.”

Emma Leaper, RHS student and winning designer

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.