Visitors to Chelsea flower show usually expect a peaceful, refined atmosphere as they contemplate the prize blooms. But this year they could hear the laughter of young people playing on a slide in the centre of the first show garden designed by children.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which runs the show, hopes to make gardening and nature more accessible to young people and inspire the next generation of growers. Horticulture has been a struggling industry in recent years and many young people, particularly in urban areas, do not have access to a garden.
The No Adults Allowed garden is being designed by a group of primary pupils from Sulivan primary school in Fulham, London, who have been working on it since the summer. So far, features include a secret door out of view of any adults, who are barred from the garden, and a slide that goes through a water feature into a den. It will also include a brightly planted meadow.
The group of children will have about 10 sessions with the garden designer Harry Holding, who will bring their gardening ideas to life for the show, which will be presented in the Royal hospital gardens next spring.
This is the latest endeavour by the RHS to make its shows, and gardening in general, more attractive to children.
Last year the RHS director general, Clare Matterson, held the first ever children’s event at Chelsea, a picnic attended by 100 young people.
Matterson said: “Children gardening and growing plants is both joyous and good for learning, development and health and wellbeing. Like our children’s Chelsea picnic, which will continue in 2024, I hope this garden will be a special experience for all the children involved, which ignites an interest in gardening that will be with them throughout their life.”
The garden will live on at Sulivan primary school for pupils to enjoy. Other schools in the area will also be invited to visit the garden.
Holding said: “I have loved working with the children at Sulivan primary school to design this garden. They have been so creative and have come up with some brilliant – if somewhat challenging, in some cases – ideas. I managed to incorporate most of their ideas into the garden, but there were a few wackier ideas that didn’t make the cut, like live crocodiles and an underground lake with a trapdoor.
“With the garden, art, sculpture and textural clay celebrate the childlike creativity innate in all of us, while sensory planting and natural materials create a nourishing space. Above all, it’s a celebration of the natural world and the joyous wonder children experience within beautiful landscapes.”