Chris Beardshaw returns to RHS Chelsea Flower Show with the RNLI Garden

‘Best in Show’ garden designer and plantsman, Chris Beardshaw returns to RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2022 as part of the new Project Giving Back initiative, with a Show Garden for one of the nation’s most well-respected charities, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, (RNLI).

Chris Beardshaw, who’s been a lifelong supporter of the charity, has designed the RNLI Garden as a celebration of both then history and modernity of this multi-faceted Institution, which has been saving lives at sea, for almost 200 years.

The RNLI was founded by Sir William Hillary in 1824 and Chris Beardshaw has created a Show Garden design, which avoids the literal, and cleverly marries style hints from the charity’s Georgian origins, with more contemporary design cues reflecting the forward-looking organisation that is the RNLI today.

At the rear of the garden, a classically inspired, oak pavilion, features traditional columns and carved inscription. The structure is spliced by a contemporary green oak arcade.

Purbeck stone is used for the paving and pitchers which create a textural path that flows through the deep and luscious borders. The rich planting provides a celebration of texture, form and foliage and hundreds of flowering herbaceous perennials create a pastel palette of whites, blues and pinks.

A collection of large statement trees in the garden includes three, Dutch elm disease resistant Ulmus pavifolia and two, six-metre-high Pinus sylvestris, giving height and hinting at the traditional lifeboat building materials used when the RNLI was first formed.

Other feature trees include a series of eccentrically clipped, Pinus mugo which appear almost as a dramatic rock scape in the garden. While a multi-stemmed Carpinus betula, is transformed from the ordinary to extraordinary, having grown around and enveloped a large rock within the centre of its stems, to form an incredible natural artwork.

The RNLI Garden will also feature large, commissioned sculptural pieces which are being specially made for the garden by Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire. The handcrafted pieces are being designed as a legacy for the RNLI, as an element within a detailed repurposing plan for the garden which will benefit the RNLI in a number of ways. Further details will be announced later in the year.

The result is a calm and confident garden that inspires inquisitiveness, looks back to look forward and echoes the charity’s sense of permanence, while offering a space in which to reflect on the many elements of the RNLI’s work.

Chris Beardshaw

Chris Beardshaw said: “We are extremely proud to have been invited to be part of the launch of Project Giving Back at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022. In addition, being asked to create a garden for the RNLI, is a huge honour. As someone who has dived and sailed for much of my life, the RNLI is a charity very dear to me and this is a fantastic opportunity to provide a platform from which to highlight the importance and depth of their work.”

This will be the first time the RNLI has had a dedicated Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. In 1999, to celebrate its 175th anniversary, the charity had a stand in the Show’s Floral Marquee, funded and designed by Gateshead Borough Council. And in 2003, the RNLI was the chosen charity to benefit from the show, with money raised funding anAtlantic 85 B-Class lifeboat, later named Chelsea Flower Show. The lifeboat is still operating as one of the charity’s training boats.

Jayne George, RNLI Fundraising, Marketing and Media Director, said: “This is such a wonderful opportunity for the RNLI and we are incredibly grateful to Project Giving Back for the opportunity and funding and the RHS for giving us the platform at the show. There is something very positive about planning and creating a garden, and we are excited to be able to share that with our volunteers, supporters and garden lovers everywhere.

“We are delighted Chris Beardshaw is creating this show garden for us and we know that his sympathetic design will honour our charity’s long history of saving lives, inspire our next generation of lifesavers and supporters and hopefully encourage gardeners to host a fundraiser for the RNLI as part of our forthcoming RNLI Gardens campaign.”

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