Charlie Hawkes returns to 2023 RHS Chelsea

After his success at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, when he won a Gold Medal in the Best About Plants category, designer Charlie Hawkes returns for the 2023 Show with a garden in the Sanctuary Category.

Sponsored by Project Giving Back, ‘The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space‘ garden, highlights how The National Brain Appeal helps people affected by neurological conditions by funding pioneering research and innovative treatments. The garden has been designed to create a space that can be enjoyed by people living with rare forms of dementia, particularly visual and special forms of the disease.

Using the experience of people with visual and non-memory dementias, Charlie has designed a space that will foster autonomy and hope, encouraging activity among other people affected. These rare dementias can make seeing, understanding and moving confidently in physical spaces very challenging.

The garden offers a balance between exploration and calm navigation so that a person with visual or non-memory-led dementia will have a greater sense of safety within a calm space they can enjoy with a friend or family member.

Planting includes the fully hardy Rosa glauca providing pale-centred, deep rose-pink flowers in summer, followed by spherical red hips later in the season. These will contrast with a wild display of flowers in pink, purple, blue and red tones. Japanese forest grass has been chosen as the baseline fabric of the planting – this eye-catching ornamental grass forms clumps of elegant arching foliage and can be easily maintained throughout each British season.

There are five key plants including Parrotia persica, Rosa glauca, Astrantia ‘Burgundy Manor’, Chloranthus sessilifolius ‘Domino’ and Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass).

Designer, Charlie Hawkes (pictured left) said: “This garden allows those living with visual and non-memory-led dementia to navigate a custom-designed outdoor space, so it becomes an accessible and stimulating environment for them to enjoy and move around with greater independence. One in six people in the UK are affected by neurological conditions, so it’s important to support the exceptional work of The National Brain Appeal in funding world-leading research and supporting people with neurological conditions. I hope the garden will increase the feeling of well-being and connectedness of people living with rare dementias and other neurological conditions.”

Theresa Dauncey, Chief Executive of The National Brain Appeal commented on being able to have a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as a wonderful opportunity for the charity and expressed their grateful thanks to Project Giving Back for making it possible: “We are delighted to be working with Charlie Hawkes; he has really engaged with the issues that face people with neurological conditions, and in particular the challenges of living with rare forms of dementias. We can’t wait to see his ideas come to life in the garden and to see it live on after the show as a place for people with rare dementias to enjoy and a legacy for the charity.”

Charlie points out that he has chosen plants and trees for the garden that will minimise sensory disruption: “People living with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) for example, can find dappled light confusing, so I have selected a multi-stem form of Parrotia persica that will provide defined, rather than broken shade and contrast,” said Charlie.

After the Show, the aim will be for the garden to be temporarily relocated to Exbury Gardens in Hampshire where it can be enjoyed by the public before it moves permanently to the Rare Dementia Support Centre, London, once the centre is completed in 2024/25.

Marcus Agius, Chairman of Exbury Gardens said: “I know that our visitors will be intrigued and enchanted to see this garden. Apart from admiring its beauty, they will be interested to learn how it has been designed to comfort people with rare dementias. Perhaps they will also take away some ideas for their own gardens: how to use certain plants and design to create a sense of calm and well-being.”

Charlie is an award-winning landscape designer who set up his own London practice in 2020 after working for Tom Stuart-Smith’s design studio for three years. He has a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from Edinburgh College of Art and has experience of working with Dan Pearson’s in Japan on the Tokachi Millennium Forest project, an estate placement at the iconic Great Dixter and a season working at Gravetye Manor.

Project Giving Back (PGB) is a unique grant-making charity that provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Launched in May 2021, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating effect on UK charitable fundraising, PGB will be will fund a total of 15 gardens at this year’s Show.

Contractors for the garden will be Landscape Associates with planting supplied by Hardys Cottage Garden Plants. The 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd to 27th May 2023.

All images strictly © Charlie Hawkes.