Manoj Malde’s RHS Chelsea garden wedding

The RHS Ambassador for inclusivity and diversity married his partner on the Feature Garden he designed for RHS Chelsea 2023

In an historic first for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show,  Manoj Malde, who designed the vibrant and colourful RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity, married his partner Clive Gillmor, on the garden on Press Day. James Alexander Sinclair was the celebrant who united the couple who have been together for 33 years.

Manoj Malde was made an RHS Ambassador at RHS Chelsea 2022, with the task of looking into how the Society can ensure it is open and appealing to all. It’s a broad remit but a year on, Manoj is optimistic for the future.

“Obviously there is a long way to go, but there are many things already happening. It’s almost like the dawn of a new era for the RHS. If we keep it up, I really do see the doors of the RHS becoming wide open to the greater public and people from diverse backgrounds. All these other communities are adding so much positivity to society – if we can make that part of the RHS then it’s a win-win situation. But it’s heading in the right direction, which is fantastic. ”

RHS and Eastern Eye GardenFor Chelsea 2023 Manoj is creating an RHS Feature Garden with partner Eastern Eye newspaper, designed to be a beautiful space with an uplifting message. As well as an emphasis on sustainability and drought-resistant planting, the garden will have accessibility features, including posts with garden information imprinted in braille.

See more about The RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity

There are hexagonal slabs that are a representation of a broken society. But when a broken society comes together it is stronger, so the path represents finding strength in unity – the driving concept being that gardens and gardening are for everyone regardless of race, colour, creed, sexuality or disability. A space to garden and be included with kindness and humanity is every person’s birthright. 

The role of the RHS

While Manoj admits that progress towards diversity can be slow, he refutes the accusation that the RHS is inaccessible.

“All this good work that the RHS do, they don’t shout out about it. When you ask people: ‘did you know that the RHS goes into schools and works with kids and does community gardening?’ nobody knows about any of that.

“It’s really important that people know the RHS isn’t just about their shows and gardens, it also does a lot in the community, then people will begin to understand that it’s not elitist.”

“We need to look at what we are growing to be more relevant to different communities. They don’t want to know about growing tomatoes – they can do that already.”

Manoj says there are some areas the RHS could work on to improve on to improve inclusivity, and it starts with the fundamentals. “We need to look at what we are growing to be more relevant to different communities. They don’t want to know about growing tomatoes – they can do that already. Where’s the coriander, the fenugreek, the bitter gourds? That’s what these communities are cooking with. Let’s create that interest, and by doing that you’re making those little connections, that’s how you open doors.

Seating in RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity

Creating connections with the past

Manoj says there have been ‘missed opportunities’ to use a more diverse range designers in RHS gardens, but he also feels that past offers opportunities to inspire future gardeners.

It was great to see the RHS celebrating the work of Indian-born botanist Janaki Ammal because even that community might not  know about her. I'd love to see more amazing stories like this because it's important we highlight that even in the age of Capability Brown, there were people from other cultures who helped create those gardens. Let’s bring all that information out, we shouldn’t be shy about it. Then younger generations will think: ‘My forefathers used to do that, so why do I feel I can’t be involved?’ It’s about creating connections.” 

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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.