People with learning disabilities off to world’s largest garden festival

21 June 2024

A group of gardeners with learning disabilities are taking a show garden to the world’s largest flower show this summer after receiving huge support from the public.

After issuing a call for support in March, the gardening team have received over £10,000 through donations and a raffle, with the Royal Horticultural Society contributing £1,000.

The team from Furzey Gardens in Minstead are now making their final arrangements to travel to RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival to build a garden that will be seen by up to 140,000 people over the show week from 1 to 7 July.

Many of the gardeners have spent a lifetime struggling against discrimination and lacking in the opportunities that many other people enjoy.

This garden will allow them to demonstrate the horticultural skills they have built over many years working at Furzey Gardens, which is run by local charity Minstead Trust. The gardens have been supporting people with learning disabilities for nearly 40 years, where they maintain the gardens and raise plants for sale in the nursery.

The funds raised have assisted with significant materials, transport and support staff costs required to undertake this ambitious garden build. Plant growing and buying costs will also be supported by these donations.

The show garden aims to help change perceptions in society towards people with learning disabilities. Many still feel socially left out and face stigma and discrimination in their everyday lives (Scior & Werner, 2015). Gardening can play a role in giving people purpose in their life and a chance to show what they can achieve.

The garden is inspired by a small waterfall area next to Furzey’s popular lake area and features plants for which the woodland garden is renowned for. Local artist Shaun Stevens has created an artist’s impression of the garden, which is named ‘Reflective waters of inclusivity’.

Supported gardener Dan said: ‘I’m just glad I’m getting involved with it, I’m just happy. Gardening makes me very happy’,

Supported gardener Rhianne said ‘I’m looking forward to telling everyone what we do here, what we like to do. When you’re outside it gives you time to think what you’re doing and it helps you to get out of your head’.

John Davies, Minstead Trust senior instructor, said: ‘This is a really exciting challenge the guys are taking on, a chance for them to show what they can do if given opportunities that are usually not available to them.

‘Many of them have been through really hard times in their lives and this is a chance for them to stand at the show at the end of this journey and feel really proud of what they have achieved. I hope people will support us so that we can change some minds around what people with learning disabilities can do if given a chance.’

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