Solo Chelsea debut for designer

In the final countdown before the gates open on another RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Reckless Gardener caught up with designer Joe Perkins MSGD, who is making his first solo appearance at the famous show for sponsor Facebook.

Ask Joe Perkins how he feels about making his first solo appearance as a designer at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and he will tell you it’s a mixture of sheer nerves as well as excitement. Joe has designed the Space to Grow Garden, ‘Facebook: Beyond the Screen‘, for the social media giant who are also sponsoring a garden at Chelsea for the first time.

I’m nervous because it’s a big thing to put myself and my garden out there for judgement from so many people,” says Joe. “Then there’s also the level of unpredictability of dealing with living material which won’t necessarily behave how you want it to,” he adds. “But of course it’s such a privilege to be designing a garden at the world’s most prestigious flower show with a team of specialists that I’ve worked with for over a decade. I can’t wait to see it all come together.”

Joe and his team are partnering with Groundwork on the build of the garden and will be working with young people. I asked him how important he felt it was to get younger people involved in gardening, especially with the impact on wellbeing and mental health: “We’re partnering with Groundwork – an amazing charity which works with young people in the most disadvantaged parts of the UK to improve their prospects and to live and work in a greener way,” Joe explains.

I’m a big believer that gardening can really help people, no matter their age, to manage their wellbeing and it’s something I hear all the time. In fact, we were talking to The Giant Vegetable Community, one of the Facebook gardening communities we are celebrating at Chelsea this year, and they were telling us how some of their members have found amazing health benefits by getting out and into the garden. I hope that we can inspire as many people as possible to consider picking up a trowel!”

Asked how he is sourcing materials for the garden and how volunteers from Groundwork will be involved in the creation of the garden, Joe (pictured left) points out that the garden will be what he calls a ‘designed landscape’ taking its inspiration from the dramatic coastal environment of Northern Spain but bringing it into a garden setting: “This meant when it came to sourcing materials, we were mindful that we wanted to maintain the ruggedness and character of a coastal landscape through using the right type of plants from all over the world. That has taken us on a journey from the far east of Scotland all the way to Germany, Italy and Spain,” he says.

Joe points out that Groundwork know better than anyone how social media can help people connect around a passion for gardening and the environment: “Social media plays a key role in their work and they use it to inspire other people to think about how they can live in a greener way,” he adds. “Young ambassadors from Groundwork have been using social media for years to connect young people from the most disadvantaged parts of the UK to environmental projects and opportunities in their local communities. Their volunteers are joining us throughout our Chelsea journey from build to re-homing, to see what it takes to build a show garden at Chelsea.”

Personally, Joe has found that social media has been an amazing force for good in regard to his own business: “I’ve witnessed it first hand as I use Facebook and Instagram for my business. It helps me speak to potential customers all around the world and keeps people up to date on my latest projects. 

The idea of The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen is to celebrate the countless stories of people who use Facebook to find common ground with others and to connect in real life, including the 1.5 million people in the UK who are part of a gardening group on Facebook,” Joe added.

The planting scheme will reflect species from around the world which thrive in similar coastal habitats reflecting the theme of connectivity, global interaction and community.

We wish Joe and his team and the Groundwork volunteers the best of luck in the final days before Chelsea and look forward to seeing his garden and meeting the team on press day.