Chelsea garden for Alder Hey

Award-winning designers, Hugh and Howard Miller of H. Miller Bros., will bring the ‘Alder Hey Urban Foraging Station’ to the 2022 RHS Chelsea Flower Show (24th to 28th May 2022) on behalf of the Alder Hey Children’s Charity in Liverpool, writes Sandy Felton.

The design is mindful of children’s mental and physical health and is designed to encourage engagement with nature through foraging, sharing healthy food, play, relaxing and being in the moment.

The garden is a woven landscape, weaving together the young and old, green and urban, play and learning at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with its community. Infused with the magic of discovery inherent to foraging, the design brings visitors first encounter with the garden as nostalgic glimpses through rampant, blossoming hedgerows.

Within, a sense of freedom prevails – explore, leave the path, get lost in your own world. The importance of mental wellbeing, especially in children, has been thrown into the spotlight during the pandemic and although the garden is outwardly about foraging, it uses this theme to address the issue of children’s mental wellbeing in an accessible and light touch way. The NHS’s five steps to mental wellbeing are all facilitated within the garden and the whole ethos of the garden reinforces this theme, from the way things are designed with the child at the centre, to the feat of opportunities to learn and pass on knowledge about foragable plants and bush crafts. The planting will draw from species naturalised to the UK, that flower in late May and provide a contribution as forage to the garden’s users.

Designer, Howard Miller (left) said: “We were really keen to work with Alder Hey to make a garden that celebrates the amazing work they do supporting children and their families. We’re a family business, local to the Hospital and many of our family and friends have benefited from Alder Hey’s care; they’re a big part of our community. It’s a real privilege too that we can move the garden back to Alder Hey where it will become a living resource for children and medical practitioners to use for social prescribing and other informal therapies.

The Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, is one of 12 show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, that has been funded by ‘Project Giving Back’ to promote good causes while supporting the horticultural industry. Launched in May 2021, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on UK charitable fundraising, the grant-making scheme provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Key features of the garden include a weaving theme – a common thread throughout the garden such as within blankets and picnic baskets. A mobile foraging kitchen will contain all the delicate tools. H. Miller Bros has borrowed the concept forms of a wheelbarrow and a picnic hamper to create the Kitchen which can be arranged to make a child friendly base.

Another theme is the edible garden – full of plant species such as crab apple, elderflower and mushrooms, water mint and poppy seed that can be foraged for eating, processing, drinking or making natural dyes.

The garden will also promote learning to care for our natural environment with planting inspired by a number of habitats that were once commonplace but can no longer be taken for granted such as rich hedgerow, orchard meadow and bog/ditch habitats.

The garden uses timber extensively as the ultimate low impact material as part of the garden’s sustainability. The planting palette is restricted to native and UK naturalized species – even the concrete used to make the picnic basket feature is made from a low carbon, light weight concrete to minimize its impact.

The garden will be relocated to the children’s hospital in Liverpool as a permanent feature to benefit patients and their families after the show is finished and become an integral part of the healthcare campus and the green spaces that connect a cluster of state-of-the-art facilities.

Howard is a designer, architect and landscape gardener who after graduating from the Glasgow School of Art and the Bartlett School of Architecture, practiced in London and New York. He creates tactile, beautiful and elegant spaces that are a delight to live in. He has previously achieved international recognition at RHS Shows, winning ‘Best in Category’ and a Gold Medal for his ‘Dark Matter’ garden at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and a Gold Medal for his Oxfam ‘Flood Garden’ at the 2011 RHS Tatton Flower Show.

Hugh (pictured right) is a master woodworker, furniture maker and designer. He made his first piece of furniture at 15 and after earning a Master’s in Architecture at the University of Sheffield, founded his first workshop in Liverpool at 24.

The brothers founded H. Miller Bros., in 2019 as a holistic design and make studio. Each project is made by hand in their workshop located in Liverpool’s creative district, The Baltic Triangle.

Key plants in the garden will include: Malus sylvestris (Crab apple); Corylus avellane (Hawthorn); Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley); Daucus carota (Wild carrot); Angelica archangelica and Allium ursinum (Wild Garlic).

The 2022 RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 24th to 28th May 2022. For more information please visit www.rhs.org.uk

Picture credits: Garden design image ©H Miller Bros.

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