Doggy DNA inspires Chelsea garden

Sponsors, The Animal Health Trust (AHT) will be collaborating with award-winning garden designer Sam Ovens, to create a Main Avenue show garden at the 2020 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The UK Charity leads scientific research and care for animals and has taken inspiration for the garden from the double helix structure of a DNA molecule, representing the ground-breaking scientific research that the AHT undertakes to identify, prevent and cure diseases affecting dogs, cats and horses around the world.

The Animal Health Trust Garden‘ has been made possible by Dame Margaret Barbour and the Barbour Foundation, who have assisted the AHT in creating the garden.

The AHT Garden marks Cornwall-based designer Sam Ovens’ return to RHS Chelsea and Main Avenue. The ribbon-like structure of the design will develop behind a veil of trees and will contain elements such as an arch, pavilion and boardwalk. It is a green space full of texture and movement with an understated palette of animal-friendly flowering plants made up predominantly of grasses.

Sam will use one simple green plant en masse to allow a select palette of flowering plants – many quite unassuming – to stand out. This will also ensure that the helical structure is dominant, reflecting the importance of the AHT’s DNA-based research.

Thousands of dogs in the UK every year are affected by diseases caused by faults in the genetic information carried by the DNA molecule – which contains all the instructions that animals need in order to grow, reproduce and function.

The AHT believes that the only way to change this is through research. By studying and finding the genetic faults that cause these illnesses, it can develop DNA tests to inform better breeding practices to reduce – and in some cases eradicate – them, ensuring that our pets can live longer, happier and healthier lives. The garden is also part of the AHT’s Cures4Paws Campaign, aimed at raising awareness among a greater number of people and in particular among the UK’s 8 million dog owners and the vital work it is doing to help thousands of dogs that are affected every year by cancer, epilepsy or blindness.

Sam points out that the understated planting palette ensures a calming space and allows the helical structure to stand proud yet grounded, giving visitors the chance to reflect on the ground-breaking work that the AHT is doing to fight disease and injury in our much loved companions: “My aim is to create a space that is informal and natural and which is timeless but with personality. Having had a break from Show Gardens over the past few years, returning to work with such a worthy cause just felt completely right,” he said.

Kevin Clements, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at AHT comments that they are delighted that the garden will feature at the 2020 Show: “We want to express our thanks to Dame Margaret Barbour and the Barbour Foundation for their generous support of the garden. Our presence at the show will provide an invaluable opportunity for us to engage with both new and existing supporters, as well as to showcase the vital work we do,” he said.

The central DNA inspired structure will be built off site using sustainably-sourced timber. Its aim will be to draw people into the space and take them on a journey, highlighting interesting views and features along the way. A focus on sustainability will see the garden using only features that are natural and sustainable materials such as Cornish slate and black basalt hoggin – a bold and simple palette.

For more information about The Animal Health Trust please visit:
For details about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs from 19th May to 23rd May 2020, please visit:

Garden image ©Sam Ovens

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