London Square Community Garden for RHS Chelsea
The power of a garden to bring people together is the inspiration behind designer James Smith’s London Square Community Garden at the 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The story behind the garden started across the river in Battersea. Hidden away between tower blocks on the top of a former car park on the Doddington & Rollo estate is a half-acre secret garden created by volunteers. It has been built almost entirely with donated plants, trees, and shrubs, compost and tools, from places such as Kew Gardens and nearby Battersea Park.
London Square discovered the garden after sponsoring the Open Gardens Weekend last year. Run by the London Gardens Trust, where over 100 green spaces opened to the public, the Doddington garden took part and the London square team went along and found a green oasis filled with local people and visitors enjoying a barbecue. The garden was filled with blooming summer flowers and produce, butterfly friendly plants and even fig, cherry and apple trees.
The community garden is important for local residents, who grow their own produce and also share it out with anything from cauliflowers, cabbages and pumpkins to leeks and chillies on offer.
Here is a place to meet, to escape to and discover the joy of growing plants and food. Below the garden in the converted car park is a space occupied by a food bank and by STORM, a charity providing support for victims and their families affected by domestic violence. It offers training services to young and older people, including a lunch club for the elderly.
Garden designer James Smith (pictured left) visited Doddington and has invited volunteers to help in the build of the garden in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. He says: “Bringing together a community is the living thread weaving through every aspect of this garden. There are two contrasting areas of what would be a larger garden. A welcoming meeting space with a large bespoke terrazza table, inset with chess boards, for relaxing, eating and drinking under the shade of a pergola. Areas have been designed for growing produce and sharing. There is an outdoor kitchen for preparing and cooking food. A path leads to a calming oasis to escape – with a tranquil planted area, a swing seat for unwinding, a garden bookcase and a spot under the canopy of a tree.”
Jo McDonagh, Sales and Marketing Director of London Square, which builds new neighbourhoods across Greater London, said: “We were so inspired by the volunteers we met at Doddington that we decided to sponsor a garden at Chelsea. We want to show visitors to Chelsea the power of a communal green space to connect people and to provide an escape and enjoy nature in the middle of the capital – and how similar spaces could be created throughout London through clever design, in all kinds of settings. It also reflects London Square’s ethos of providing communal gardens for people to share a sense of belonging at the heart of the new homes and places we create.”
Upcycled chairs have been designed by The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades’ furniture restorers, Jay & Co., who have also designed the cushions for the swing seat.
Planting will be a mix of lush green textures with blue, purple, white and pink flowers. Aromatic and scented plants feature including trees for dappled shade and a mixture of vegetables and herbs in the garden.
After RHS Chelsea, the garden will continue with key elements being relocated to the Doddington & Rollo Community Roof Garden in Battersea, reflecting London Square’s commitment to promoting the importance of green spaces for local communities.
“It’s really exciting to have inspired a garden at Chelsea,” says Malissa Ritchie, Chair of the Doddington Garden Committee, where around 50 volunteers get involved. “We hope it will encourage more people to come and visit us, whether it’s to help out, or simply to come and get to know their neighbours. The garden is a very equalising space. When you’re all digging the earth together, you can’t help but make friends.”
This is the second time London Square has sponsored a garden at the Show, winning Gold with a design by Jo Thompson in 2014.
James is a chartered Landscape Architect and a Member of the Society of Garden Designers. He has a particular flair for high quality creative design and an impressive record of overseeing a range of award-winning schemes in London and surrounding counties. He returns to RHS Chelsea following his debut appearance in September 2021, where he designed a balcony garden ‘The Green Sky Pocket Garden’.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd to 27th May 2023.
Credits: Garden design ©James Smith