The garden aims to get families talking about everyday pressures or ‘family monsters’
Monty Don says he “loves the simplicity of the garden”
The Family Monsters Garden being shown in the artisan section at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year (20-25 May 2019) has won a Gold Medal this morning, as well as the award for Best Artisan Garden at the show.
Designed by idverde’s Alistair Bayford the Family Monsters Garden celebrates 150 years of the national charity Family Action supporting families across the country and 100 years of idverde which creates and maintains landscapes for the benefit of local communities, such as parks and gardens.
The Family Monsters Garden is designed to get people talking about the everyday pressures all families face but can find difficult to talk about. Research for Family Action found the top five pressures on family life today are money, health & wellness, work & education, spending quality time together, and relationships. The charity says families need to find ways to talk about these ‘family monsters’ to stop them from becoming overwhelming, as illustrated in the Family Monsters Project film.
idverde’s Alistair Bayford designed the Family Monsters Garden to encourage people to reflect on their pressures and to bring families together. The garden is full of symbolism, such as using trees with obvious imperfections to convey how families can grow together after tackling challenges, and using boulders and pebbles of different shapes and sizes to represent different family monsters being reduced down by talking about them.
The Family Monsters Garden also includes a range of plants and habitats for Britain’s native wildlife, attracting the urban wildlife in the Royal Chelsea Hospital grounds.
The Family Monsters Garden has created opportunities to develop horticulture skills for some of idverde’s professional apprentices and those involved in Family Action’s ESCAPE project in Norfolk which supports people with issues around rural isolation or disability and mental health. Growing plants and making a willow sculpture for Chelsea Flower Show was something people at ESCAPE say was beyond their wildest dreams, and the team of idverde’s apprentices who worked on the build have gained valuable experience in creating and maintaining green spaces.
After the show, the Family Monsters Garden will be relocated to Silkmore Children’s Centre in Stafford, where it will continue to benefit local families, community and wildlife in the long term. Once in place, children will be able to play in the garden while at other times it will be a quiet space for parental learning or reflection. It is hoped that local community volunteers will enjoy learning how to look after the magnificent garden, which is next-door to a primary school.
One of Family Action’s founders, Octavia Hill, campaigned in the 1880s for urban families to have access to green, open spaces for their health and wellbeing. In 1919 the MP George Courthope and Colonel Jocelyn Brudenell Pelham (6th Earl of Chichester) set up an association to grow and manage woodlands sustainably for future generations. That association evolved and grew into idverde, managing thousands of parks and green spaces.
idverde Operations Director and designer of the garden, Alistair Bayford, said: “Bringing this garden to Chelsea has been a real privilege. I’m ecstatic that we’ve won a gold medal – there’s no feeling like it. It’s important that we all talk more about the pressures our families face, and it’s been a great experience for the 22 apprentices who’ve helped build the Family Monsters Garden alongside the team from Family Action’s project in Swaffham.”
Family Action Chief Executive, David Holmes, CBE said: “Every family has its monsters and we’ve been helping families deal with their pressures for 150 years. We hope this wonderful garden, which is full of symbolism, will encourage families to come together and talk about their family monsters. The more we do so, the better we can all face the challenges of life together, rather than pretending everything is okay. We all have everyday problems in our families that, like the boulders representing family monsters, can become more manageable simply by talking.”
idverde CEO, Doug Graham, said: “Our mutual anniversaries are a perfect opportunity for Family Action and idverde to demonstrate our shared commitment to stronger families and communities and the green spaces they rely upon. It’s also created a wonderful opportunity for our professionals and Family Action’s allotment growers to work together to develop their skills and passion for horticulture – and we’re proud of that there will be a lasting legacy when the Family Monsters Garden relocates to its new home at the Silkmore Children’s Centre in Stafford.”