A team of horticulturalists with learning disabilities is to take a show garden to the Chelsea Flower Show in 2012.
The team, plus volunteers and adults with learning disabilities from Furzey Gardens in Minstead, New Forest, will be guided by garden designer and radio and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw. Furzey Gardens is run by Furzey Gardens Charitable Trust, which operates in conjunction with its sister charity, the Minstead Training Project. The organisations provide a range of services for students with learning disabilities and many work in Furzey Gardens and as part of their training to develop their social, domestic and work skills. Beardshaw’s inspiration for the garden was crafted with the students at Furzey who provided him with words and pictures to illustrate their memories, associations and experiences of their time spent there. The students are also assisting with the planning and design process and are helping to propagate the plants, most of which are being sourced from Furzey or raised in the nursery. On the day students will be on site at Chelsea to help to build the show garden. They will also be involved in relocating the garden back to Furzey Gardens where the general public will be able to visit and see the students’ handiwork. Beardshaw has created a sloping woodland design which incorporates a large collection of acid-loving species including rhododendrons, azaleas, acers and primulas.
A major feature in the Show Garden is a reclaimed timber and thatch structure which has been created for the show by a master thatcher, Simon Sinkinson, who has worked with Furzey Gardens for the past 30 years. The structure includes craft exhibits made by the students and has been designed as a meeting place. It also includes a tiny fairy door; many such little doors can be found in structures around Furzey and they have become enchanting favourites with all the children visiting the gardens.
Pete White, who has been Furzey’s head gardener and horticultural instructor for 22 years, said “It is very exciting for our students, staff and volunteers to be working on this Show Garden project with someone as passionate and enthusiastic as Chris. “It is hoped that the publicity generated by the ‘Furzey Garden’ at Chelsea will raise the profile of the Minstead Training Project and will emphasise the importance of organisations working to help people with learning disabilities to reach their full potential.” Trust chairman Tim Selwood added: “We are hopeful that this project will raise morale at a time when the services upon which people with learning disabilities depend are facing unprecedented cuts. The Trust is a non-profit making organisation depending on the goodwill of a small dedicated staff and many volunteers, helpers and donors to carry on its work. “Despite the current challenges, The Minstead Training Project is working hard through Furzey Gardens to ensure that the lives of these most vulnerable members of society are valued and fulfilled.”