The Samaritans' Listening Garden by Darren Hawkes uses raw beauty to demonstrate the life-changing impact listening has
The life-changing impact of listening will be celebrated at RHS Chelsea 2023 in a garden designed by Darren Hawkes to mark the 70th anniversary of Samaritans.
The Samaritans’ Listening Garden will depict the challenging journey many people take when they reach out to Samaritans and the comfort and sanctuary they find when speaking to a listening volunteer. 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 to the garden, huge curtains of reinforced concrete, supported by thin cables will hover above the delicate foliage of the plants below. Towering above this will be the giant, architectural form of Aralia chapaensis making the entrance to the garden feel brutal and foreboding.
The pathway into the garden will appear cracked with deep fissures leading down into the darkness, where the sound of gushing water can 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 sits under the canopy of a stunning small-leaved Elm, 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 trodden can be viewed from a different perspective and some of the obstacles that seemed overwhelming as you entered the garden, will now appear exquisitely crafted, even beautiful as you look at them from behind.
Darren Hawkes said: “Our conceptual garden is inspired by the stories of people who found the courage to reach out to Samaritans in their darkest times. 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. Ultimately, it is a garden of hope with an important, powerful message.“
Julie Bentley, Samaritans CEO, said: “Having a Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is very special, and a wonderful occasion to help mark our 70th anniversary. Darren Hawkes’ hugely imaginative Samaritans’ Listening Garden perfectly captures the vital role Samaritans volunteers play in helping people during difficult times. I especially love that the garden celebrates and champions the power of listening, which is at the core of every call we take.
“An often-overlooked way to support our friends, family and those around us, we know listening can help change, and even save lives. We are very grateful to Darren and Project Giving Back for giving us this wonderful opportunity.”