Veterans and Students received the news this morning (Tuesday 22nd) that the project they have worked on over the last seven months has won a Gold medal and Best Discovery Exhibit at this year’s show.
The Force for Good garden was designed and created by military Veterans and Horticulture students to tell the powerful story of the role horticulture plays in the recovery and ongoing support of injured British Armed Forces personnel, Veterans, and their families.
Gill Parker, an RAF Veteran who lives with PTSD, has been working on the project, she began studying Horticulture with Help for Heroes last year and was delighted to get involved in the collaboration between the military charity and Sparsholt College.
“Working on this project has been an amazing opportunity, not only have I seen the flowers bloom I’ve seen myself bloom and my confidence has grown. To get a gold medal is incredible, and then to win Best Garden in Section is even better. All of our hard work has paid off.”
The group was visited by Garden Designer – Matt Keightley who has created ‘The Feel Good Garden’ at this years’ show said: “I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that Help for Heroes was working on a garden this year. I had a real privilege to see the Help for Heroes Veterans work with students at Sparsholt College. My first experience, and where my passion started for Horticultural Therapy was with Help for Heroes and the whole garden is a message about the Recovery process, and how they felt when they went through it themselves. It’s a real genuine garden with a strong message.”
Lecturer Chris Bird, who has led Sparsholt College to eight Gold medals, three Silver-gilt medals, six Silver medals and three Bronze said: “It is always an honour to exhibit at RHS Chelsea and this year feels particularly meaningful given the show’s theme of health, wellbeing, and happiness and the powerful story it has enabled us to tell in collaboration with our partner Help for Heroes. Not only have our students won another Gold medal at the world’s most famous flower show but they have had the privilege of working alongside military Veterans who have been inspiring, motivating and made an invaluable contribution to this year’s garden.”
The design of the garden was inspired by conversations between students and the veterans. These personal experiences have been brought to life through the planting to illustrate the positive impact gardening activity can have on mental health and the role horticulture plays in ongoing support and recovery.
The Force for Good is divided into three sections – ‘Surviving’, ‘Support’ and ‘Stability’. The positioning and grouping of plants in ‘Surviving’ show disorientation, the 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 portrays 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’ shows 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 engages all of its visitors’ senses, using relevant soundtracks in each section. White noise conveys chaos and confusion, natural sounds give a sense of nature and the outdoors and a symphonic piece of music, composed especially for Help for Heroes, provides the backdrop to peace, calm and relaxation.
After RHS Chelsea 2018 the garden's legacy will continue this positive impact - with elements being re-homed and donated to community groups, to help more people learn, grow and heal through gardening.
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