One year Tim Selwood (Minstead Trust’s founder) went up to Chelsea and saw the shows up there and came back and announced that he thought we should enter a show garden.

I sort of took a bit of a gulp and I thought, okay he probably means one of these small, I think they call them artisan gardens. So, they’re small displays and I thought yeas we can have a go at that, but of course being Tim, that wasn’t what he was thinking of, he was thinking of the major show gardens, which are usually multi-million pound jobs run by celebrity designers for enormous companies and conglomerates.

So, he’d set his mind upon organising this and we’d had some previous contact with the designer Chris Beardshaw, that he’s donated a tree to the garden and I think his wife knew the garden and he came and he spoke with us and he expressed his interest. I don’t know whether Tim managed to bend his arm or pursued him in some way and we just started working together and it was about 18 months I think before the actual show that we took part in, that it all kicked off. So, we had a summer and a bit to plan it all.

We had no money to start off with, so there was a huge fundraising project. Tim was managing that, he was calling in favours from all over the county I think and we knew that we didn’t have the budget to buy in the plants that were needed for a show garden, because many of these gardens have budgets of hundreds if not millions of pounds.

It didn’t seem right just to design a garden, put in an order at a huge nursery, have all that stuff arrive and just plant it up and say that’s it. It had to be, if it was going to be a garden which showcased what the people we support could do, it had to be of us.

We were very keen that we took as much as we could from Minstead Lodge and from Furzey Gardens. So, we set about digging up some trees and shrubs, so you’re right there were hundreds and hundreds of trees and shrubs dug up, thousands of perennial plants grown, so we took plants that were already in the garden, we took seed from plants that we had in the garden, so that to grow them for the next year.

We hired in some enormous machinery, I think a tree spade, which is like a bulldozer with these enormous digging blades on the front which you drive up to your tree, park in front of it and these things dig into the ground and heave it up and carry it away and then they were potted up into 300 litre pots.

The entire nursery was given over to growing, all the poly tunnels and the greenhouses were just stuffed full of plants. Then it was like a military operation, nearer the time we’d had all this transport donated, offers of transport donate, which was fantastic. So, all these lorry’s turned up, we had to load the lorry’s full of everything and off we went to Chelsea.

Eventually the build was finished and on judging day we did achieve what we achieved. It felt a real vindication actually and it was a very special feeling and a real sense that we’d been able to do something quite special. I think if we hadn’t, I would have been a broken man, it would have been quite difficult I think if we hadn’t done well.

It was great that everybody in the Trust had been able to contribute, the students had, their families, the volunteers, the staff, all the staff, everybody who had anything to do with us was able to contribute something.

Pete White and the Chelsea garden under construction by people with learning disabilities

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