Sparsholt College and the charity Help for Heroes have announced their partnership for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. The Force for Good garden focuses on the role horticulture plays in the recovery and ongoing support of injured British Armed Forces personnel and their families. Individual stories are told through the garden as the students and former-military gardeners inform visitors of the journey from injury or illness through to recovery. The Force for Good garden is a demonstration of how horticulture has given these individuals a second chance at life and how everyone can benefit from it.

Sparsholt’s Horticulture students are working collaboratively with Help for Heroes to design and create The Force for Good, a garden of three different sections. The students were inspired by conversations at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre. Those supported by the charity at Tedworth House in Wiltshire can take part in gardening activities as part of their recovery.

The positioning and grouping of plants in the ‘Surviving’ section of the garden will show the disorientation, conflicting emotions and mental state of those being supported by Help for Heroes before they enter a recovery programme. As they progress through to ‘Stability’, the garden will portray a number of horticultural activities undertaken at the four Recovery Centres nationwide. These activities focus on crop production and horticulture skills. The third and final section, ‘Support’ will show how planting and landscaping can create an area promoting recovery and ongoing support. This stage signifies when an individual becomes an active member of their community again.

The garden will engage all of its visitors’ senses, using relevant sound tracks in each section. White noise will convey chaos and confusion. Natural sounds will give a sense of nature and the outdoors. A symphonic piece of music composed especially for Help for Heroes will provide the backdrop to peace, calm and relaxation.

Sparsholt College’s Horticulture expert Chris Bird is leading the student team. He said: “RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous show of its kind. Whether you are an experienced, high-profile designer or just getting started in horticulture, the experience is incredible. We are very proud to be working alongside Help for Heroes to share the powerful stories of those the charity supports. Also we’ll be showcasing the therapeutic benefits of gardening for health and wellbeing to all.”

At least one in four people will be affected by mental health issues each year. However, working with plants or being in a beautiful, green space can improve health and wellbeing*. It can aid rehabilitation, reduce depression, anxiety and stress-related symptoms while also helping to improve self-esteem, confidence and mood. Gardening can positively impact a local community by bringing people together. Elements of The Force for Good garden will be re-homed following the RHS Chelsea show. This donation to community groups will help more people to learn, grow and heal through gardening.

Lucy Thorpe, Horticultural Therapist at Help for Heroes said: “We are delighted that Sparsholt College students chose to focus on the recovery journey of wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans. We have seen first-hand how horticulture and nature courses have empowered Veterans. In some cases, this has led to those we support achieving a City and Guilds qualification and studying further RHS courses at Sparsholt College.”

Learn more about The Force for Good Garden


*Source: Natural England Commissioned Report NECR204, a review of nature-based interventions for mental health care.