A garden that celebrated community growing
The RHS Growing Community Garden explored the ways gardening can engage people of all ages and experience
The walk-through RHS Growing Community Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was created by Jon Wheatley, an RHS Council member and chairman of RHS South West in Bloom.
Neighbourhood gardens help to create a social community, bringing people with all levels of gardening experience together to share their knowledge and love of growing. Key features of the garden included edibles, plants to attract beneficial pollinators, recycled features, a plant production polytunnel, raised planters, a community meeting space, an urban forest and a shop. Community groups and schools also helped to bring the project together.
Jon, a national RHS Britain in Bloom judge, and one of the UK’s leading authorities on dahlias, said: “The garden is about happy, healthy horticulture – focusing on the value that gardening brings to individuals and communities. It demonstrates the real value of the RHS, which is changing the face of Britain through community gardening, and its work with 25,000 schools via the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and it's new campaign I Can Grow.”
The garden looked at ways that gardeners can help struggling pollinators. Bees have suffered heavy population declines in recent years, perhaps due to the use of pesticides, intensive farming and habitat loss.
Jon explains: “There are worldwide issues with bee decline, so I've wanted a strong focus on how community gardening groups can help with pollination, as well as including bee hives in the garden, all the planting is bee-friendly”
A polytunnel showcased the latest tomato varieties from Suttons. Jon built an extensive vegetable garden that included a succession of crops of salad, cabbage, leeks, beans, herbs and giant vegetables – all of which were timed to reach perfection at the show. Raised beds demonstrated how grow-your-own methods can be made easier for less-experienced gardeners.
Drawing on the current trend for sustainable gardening, the garden offered a host of ideas to encourage people to recycle. Jon explored new uses for plastics and ways to upcycle old wood – showing that it can look even better than newly bought timber. Jon added: “We'll show you some everyday materials that can be recycled and made to look attractive in community gardens and some ideas about how to sell surplus produce to prevent it from going to waste.”
Wonder of worms
Visitors to the community garden were able to learn about the vital role that worms play on our plots. A display demonstrated how beneficial worms are to soil health, illustrating how poor our soils would be without them. Examples of high-quality soil were also on show.