Gold medal-winning designer Darren Hawkes will be creating a garden using 85% reclaimed materials from demolition sites, scrap yards and farmyards
Gold medal-winning designer Darren Hawkes will be creating a garden using 85% reclaimed materials from demolition sites, scrap yards and farmyards at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as a metaphor for the journey from crisis to hope experienced by many of those who seek help from Samaritans.
Samaritans’ Listening Garden, designed to mark the charity’s 70th anniversary, is inspired by the stories of people who found the courage to reach out to Samaritans in their darkest times. Using salvaged materials recovered from sites around his home in Cornwall, Darren will be honing, shaping and polishing them to create beautiful new forms and textures, ascribing the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired using gold to transform it into a new work of art. The result will be a garden of salvaged concrete and steel transformed into a beautiful and exquisitely crafted space.
Speaking about the process Darren said: “I wanted the garden to feel real and raw and to provoke curiosity as it explores the journey towards good mental health and illustrates that the path towards recovery isn't always straight forward. I hope people who go to the show might look at the garden and immediately recognise something that isn’t pretending life is perfect.”
Julie Bentley, Samaritans CEO, said: “The way in which Darren has managed to convey so beautifully the experience of people that reach out to Samaritans through plants and materials is amazing. The garden is a manifestation of how our callers can be feeling and a powerful reminder that listening can save lives. As a Samaritans volunteer, Darren knows this better than anyone and has created a beautiful place to sit, share and be heard.”
Darren will be manipulating the salvaged materials by hand and any not able to be repurposed will re-enter the recycling process from where they were originally sourced.
“It was crucial to me that the garden was as sustainable as possible including limiting haulage and curbing reliance on new resources” says Darren. “This does mean I’ve spent months scouring sites in Cornwall in the hunt for concrete which I eventually found in a farmyard courtyard. It’s been difficult and awkward to handle but I really wanted to take a material that was discarded and see if I could breathe new life into it. Hopefully I’ve done that, it will certainly create some amazing textures within the garden.”
Designed to conjure up a wide range of emotions, the garden will be a representation of fear, anxiety and helplessness juxtaposed with relief, support and hope.
At the entrance, a cluster of large reinforced concrete boulders supported by thin cables will hover above the delicate foliage of the plants below, making the entrance to the garden feel brutal and foreboding, while the pathway leading into the garden will appear cracked with deep fissures, where the unsettling sound of gushing water will be heard. Beyond this, the garden will open out into a welcoming sanctuary as you walk down into a sunken area where a sculptural Oak bench will sit under the canopy of a stunning small-leaved Elm (Ulmus minor ‘Jaqueline Hillier’), providing a space that will encourage visitors to talk, be heard and gain perspective on their struggles.
Looking back at the garden at this point, the path can be viewed from a different perspective and some of the obstacles that seemed overwhelming as you entered the garden, will now appear beautiful as you look at them from behind.
In the same way, plants will also be used to convey feelings of distress, isolation and fear alongside others to express comfort.
At the front of the garden, the planting will create a daunting atmosphere with the spikes and thorns of Aralia, Zanthoxyllum, Rosa and Corokia being used to make the visitor feel hesitant about coming into the garden. As you move through the space, the planting will then soften and become less confrontational with Stipa, Rosa, and Aralia continentalis used to entice you into the sunken garden, where the space will feel harmonious and restful.
Many of the 2,000 plants in the garden have been chosen for their architectural form and varied colour and texture, including a collection of very rare Aralia chapaensis which together with the Elms (Ulmus minor ‘Jaqueline Hillier’) will provide strong silhouettes throughout the garden.
The garden will also include two thought-provoking sculptures: A swirling vortex of over 3,000 nails at the entrance to the garden to capture the confusion, fear and turmoil that can lead people to reach out to Samaritans; and at the far end of the garden, a bronze figurative sculpture called Listening that has been created especially for the garden by artist Andrew Litten. This life-size sculpture of a female figure will sit in a quiet corner, looking into the garden, as if waiting to hear the thoughts of those who pass through.
In addition, four green Oak benches, sculpted by craftsman Thomas Rosler, will be positioned throughout the garden to remind us that finding the strength to talk can change your perspective on the challenges you are facing.
After the show, planting and other elements of the garden will be relocated to Samaritans branches as well as travelling to festivals around the UK.
For further information about Samaritans’ Listening Garden, please contact [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can visit www.samaritans.org
- Every 10 seconds, Samaritans responds to a call for help.
- Samaritans is a charity and it’s the public’s kind donations and 23,000 volunteers that mean we are always there for anyone struggling to cope. Find out how you can support us or volunteer with us.
- You can follow Samaritans on social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Darren Hawkes
Darren Hawkes has been designing gardens for over 20 years. He has two gold medals for creating show gardens at Chelsea in 2017 and 2015 as well as a Silver Gilt medal in 2013 for the charity SeeAblity.
Based in Cornwall, Darren is lead designer at Darren Hawkes Landscapes, a design studio working across domestic gardens, and larger public realm spaces throughout the UK.
Darren continues to be strongly involved with Maggie’s, the cancer charity he created the ‘Linklaters garden for Maggie’s’ at Chelsea in 2017. He has designed spaces at both the St Bartholomew’s Hospital site and The Forth Valley Hospital site in Stirlingshire.
About Project Giving Back
- Project Giving Back (PGB) is a unique grant-making charity that provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. PGB was launched in May 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating effect on UK charitable fundraising. It will fund gardens inspired by a range of good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
- PGB will fund a total of 15 gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 and intends to fund up to 42 gardens at the show from 2022 - 2024. (Applications for 2023 & 2024 are now closed).
- Project Giving Back was established with funding from two private individuals who are RHS Life Members and keen gardeners. They wish to remain anonymous. PGB will help UK-based good causes recover from the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic by giving them an opportunity to raise awareness of their work for people, plants and the planet at the high-profile RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
- Find out more at www.givingback.org.uk