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The centre piece of our garden: RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

24 April 2019

Our landscape designer Alistair explains the centre piece, of our Family Monsters Garden, which contributes towards getting families to open up about their family monsters and start a conversation. Read on to find out about the bench, water pool and Scottish beach cobbles explained by Alistair below.

As Family Action has discovered many families face pressures and tackling these pressures isn’t always easy. So how does our family monsters garden help encourage people to talk about their family pressures and to tackle them? Well the garden’s design creates a safe space within a central elevated area, at the centre of the garden, so families can come together; to talk and to reflect or gain perspective on their pressures.

Within this central elevated area and at the end of the curved and sloped gravel path is both a bench and a pool of water. The path leading up to this area represents the uphill struggles or difficult journeys that families may face, when surrounded by, working through or dealing with their pressures and at the end of the path is this safe space – a destination for reflectivity and contentment, a place to talk or to take a break from your stresses or struggles.

The bench, suspended on two boulders acts as the focus of the garden. Made from oak it is symbolic of solidity and longevity. It’s large enough to bring people together on the bench and it acts as a point of refuge in a tranquil environment that’s sheltered from view but at the highest point in the garden, as to feel protected and safe.

The boulders that hold up the bench signify monsters that have been resolved. In seeking to resolve our monsters we can gain the support of others to assist along the way, be it an ear to listen, help and guidance or experience and knowledge.
The bench acts as a focal point for a families to join together to discuss their monsters, to reflect and gain perspective in the peace and tranquillity or the safe space, that is surrounded by vegetation and a still pool of water.

“In seeking to resolve our monsters we can gain the support of others”

The bench is being made by Woodcraft UK. We commissioned them after seeing the quality of their work for the Silver Medal Winning garden ‘Calm in Chaos‘ at RHS Tatton Park 2018 designed by Max Harriman. They understood the requirements and valued the meaning of the bench within in the design exactly and have contributed greatly using their knowledge and experience. The bench will be one of the last pieces to arrive at the show for incorporation into the garden in order to preserve it for show week.

The water pool within the garden is edged by the corten steel frame to distinguish the water from the path in a more vivid manner. The water pool provides a sense of peace, calm and tranquillity within the garden and the use of water within our garden helps to spark reflectivity and thinking time, which in turn helps to stimulate conversation amongst visitors. The water sits alongside the bench on the raised central platform and the water will be perfectly clear, to symbolise offering clarity and perspective when talking about our monsters.

The pool will be lined with Scottish beach cobbles, descendants of the glacial boulders that are being used to signify our monsters. Whilst the beach cobbles still carry scars and are not perfect, they represent problems that have been resolved, made smaller and smoothed out. As our family monsters more often than not will still leave their mark after being tackled and made smaller which I thought was important to reflect within the garden.

We worked with service users at ESCAPE* community allotment and orchard project, a Family Action service, who have edged their problems or family pressures onto the cobbles which will be incorporated into the garden. They capture the types of problems our families face, be it large or small, temporary or permanent – also important to demonstrating the presence of family monsters within the Family Monsters Garden. We hope that visitors to the Show will be inspired to join the conversation and share their family monsters to.

You can watch this short video explaining the Scottish beach cobbles and Alistair’s visit to the ESCAPE* community allotment and orchard project, to work with them on the cobbles.

*The ESCAPE project is based in Swaffham, Norfolk and was set up to help individuals and families in the Swaffham area, with the aim of supporting and improving the life opportunities of local people. It is an eco-therapy project based around a community allotment and orchard.

Or you can read all the latest updates from our Family Monsters Garden here or get involved with the Family Monsters Project directly. Every family has its monsters, let’s face them together.

Alistair Bayford