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Gold Medal and Best in Category!

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

The Talitha Arts Garden at the

2023 Chelsea Flower Show

Photographed by Alister Thorpe

What a week it was! The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has come to a close and the ‘The Talitha Arts Garden’ has been lovingly dismantled and packed away. The garden is now being relocated as we speak to its new, forever home in the heart of Bethnal Green at our partners, St. Margaret's House.

The Garden will ‘live on’ in the wonderful arts and well-being community hub in their accessible vegan cafe garden where it can be enjoyed and used in celebration of the arts and its power to promote better mental well-being. But before we talk more on what’s to come with the garden, let’s take a look back at RHS Show week…

Build Week

In their high-vis jackets and steel toe-capped boots, our wonderful designers, Joe and Laura Carey, along with the plant team from Katie's Plants and the build team from Landcraft UK, set about the challenging and tiresome task of bringing the ‘Talitha Arts Garden’ to life!

Construction came first! The build team worked to build the raised perimetres, the rust stage, the garden backing and fit the fencing before adding all the soil needed ready for the planting team. The plants came next, each carefully placed and selected to tell the story of Talitha Arts and transformation from trauma into healing. They had to ensure they met all the planting measurements and rules set by the ‘All About Plants’ category and that everything looked in tip-top condition.

We were lucky enough to have Kazuyuki Ishihara, renowned Japanese garden designer, to help prune and give advice on our Acer (Japanese maple tree). Then came the sculptural elements of the garden… The Chrysalis sculpture, made by Stone Carver Teucer Wilson and the ceramic butterflies sculpted by Artist Naoko Tagai. Naoko came in on the last few days of build week to help select and home each butterfly in and amongst the plant beds.

Lastly came the gravel! This was partly made from the remains of the Portugese Limestone stone used for the chrysalis and needed to be in pristine condition ahead of judging day. Then just finishing touches on the plants, the grass walkway surrounding the garden and fitting the rope barriers. The garden was ready and awaited the judges the Sunday before Press day.

Press Day

Photographed by Alister Thorpe

The day had finally arrived for the Talitha staff to enter the show and see the ‘Talitha Arts Garden’. It truly exceeded all expectations! We couldn’t believe how the garden resembled the illustration we had spent so long admiring. The planting was exquisite and beautifully captured the journey of transformation. Starting with darker and more ‘bruised’ tones and shades in a wild flower array of colour, texture and life. The butterflies and chrysalis elevated the whole message of the garden and brought it all together. It was so moving and touching to see a garden capture something so close to our hearts at Talitha. We were truly honoured and thrilled.

Photographed by Alister Thorpe

After a morning of visitors and sharing the garden with press day guests, our press photo call was set to go at midday. We were so grateful to be joined by our Founder, Amanda Root; Patron, Tim McInnerny, garden Ambassador, Leigh Johnstone AKA The Beardy Gardener) and long term supporter, Tamsin Greig. We conducted a sample Talitha Arts’ workshop - with a movement and breath warm up followed by ‘making a mark’ on our Express Yourself canvas, before hearing some poetry which was created and written by beneficiaries who used our therapeutic arts workshops. We had such fun and hopefully were able to convey a flavour of Talitha and the work we do.

Next up- the Royal visit! At 3pm on press day the newly crowned King and his royal entourage visited the gardens at Chelsea. Our Artistic Director, Jenna Thorne, and garden designer Laura Carey represented the ‘Talitha Arts Garden’ as the Royals enjoyed the show. Princess Beatrice took a liking to our garden and was given a private tour! A Gala evening followed and special and prestigious guests enjoyed dinner and a champagne reception at the show and where they could wander and admire the ‘Talitha Arts Garden’ as they went!

Show Week & the Talitha Arts Hours Event

Tuesday was a VERY special day for the Talitha Arts Garden and our designers, Joe and Laura Carey. On Tuesday morning, bright and early, the RHS came around with their camera crew and presenters, to award the Talitha Arts Garden a GOLD medal! We were so thrilled and our incredible designers were speechless! It was their first Chelsea show garden, their first time in the category. On top of all that - they recently had a baby! Super humans! The Talitha Arts team were over the moon.

The good news did not stop there. Later that morning the RHS delivered their second award for our garden with a ‘Best in Category’ award. All the hard work of the designers, build team, plant team, artists, sculptures, Talitha staff felt like it had truly paid off and we couldn’t have asked for a better result! Monty Don from the BBC arrived that morning to interview the designers and the extract was shown on the BBC RHS coverage that evening. It caused such a buzz around the garden and design team.

With awards given, BBC filming commenced and the show was now officially open. The public and our volunteers started to flock in for their garden shifts on the stand, ready and eager to talk about the charity, the plants and the message of the garden. The team busily chatted to the public and gave out leaflets and our giveaway ‘butterfly seeded paper’, 8am-8pm! We are so grateful for each and everyone's enthusiasm and dedication to the cause and we are pleased so many of our trustees, practitioners and Talitha volunteers could be part of the experience.

Photography by: Alister Thorpe

Into the evening and it was time to set up for our after-hours event on the garden! Our partners arrived from St. Margaret's House. They brought delicious vegan canapes from their cafe to serve at the event. The music, provided by the brilliant Nastee Chapel, soon began and drinks and canapes were enjoyed. It was such a fantastic change to bring together trustees, supporters, partners, staff and friends of the charity. We were able to come together to speak about the communities we help and the work we do.

As well as hearing poetry readings that had been created and written by beneficiaries of the workshops, we heard from the Artistic Executive Director, Jenna Thorne, our Trustee, Simon Lee, our Therapeutic Arts Director, Becky Gibbs and some of our partners from Ella’s and Dalemead Dementia Care-home.

The evening was a great success as we were able to toast the garden and its many impressive awards but also raise awareness of the charity and the therapeutic arts work we conduct to help survivors of trauma.

Come Wednesday we were in full-swing of the show and our teams of volunteers were doing fantastic jobs at representing Talitha. We were also were lucky enough to have artist and creator of the beautiful garden butterflies, Naoko Tagai, with us on the garden that day and she was able to answer questions from the public on how each porcelain butterfly was handcrafted, fired in the kiln without glaze and on her other artistic work.

On Thursday we were joined by our Talitha Arts Garden Ambassador ‘The Beardy Gardener’ who led a mini, interactive creative workshop and talk on the garden. His charismatic energy gathered a crowd as he talked openly about his own experiences of trauma and the arts as a healing and processing tool for that experience. He engaged so brilliantly with the public in dramatic warm-ups and breath work and used the garden as an influence for the session. We are so grateful to have him as our Ambassador and such a big part of our week at Chelsea.

Friday and Saturday rolled around, the garden had a crowd around it was busier than ever.

The BBC coverage and ‘Best in Category’ award meant our garden was one to visit. We were so pleased to inform the public on the message of the planting and design and how it so accurately and beautifully depicted the work and aims of the charity. The days were long but they were so worth it! As 6pm finally hit on the last Saturday of show week, it was time for our wonderful volunteers, staff and designers to make their way home for some well needed rest as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 closed it doors.

Photography by: Alister Thorpe

As we touched on above, although we are sad that the show is over, we are ready and raring to rehome our beautiful garden as part of Project Giving Back's ‘Gardens for good causes’ project. The garden will is being rehomed as we speak St. Margaret's House, an arts and well-being community hub in East London. It will be able to be enjoyed and used for events, festivals and community sessions by both St.Margarets House and also Talitha Arts. As partners, we use the space for training, meetings, events and workshops and are excitied that garden will be able to be seen and used by our workshop beneficiaries who’s stories it represented. The garden will be in an accessible space for the public and be able to be enjoyed by so many. We cannot wait.

Whether or not you saw The Talitha Arts Garden at Chelsea, we hope you will come and visit the beautiful space that will be created in Bethnal Green so you can see first-hand its beauty and powerful message in its new, forever home.

Special mentions:

Joe and Laura Carey - (Carey Design Garden Studio) who without, none of this would be possible. Thank you for your kindness, dedication and for seeing our vision and ethos so clearly and conveying that so beautifully in your design and execution. You should be so proud of yourselves and your achievements and Chelsea Flower Show 2023.

Project Giving Back - Our sponsors for the ‘Talitha Arts Garden’ and ‘gardens for good causes’. We are so grateful to have been given this opportunity. Thank you for trusting in us. We are a tiny charity but one with a big heart, so thank you again for going the extra mile to support us.

Landcraft UK - the team worked so hard on this project and delivered such a high quality result! It would not have been possible without this brilliant team. In both build and take down, you were nothing but professional and the backbone of the garden build.

Katie's Plants - Just like Joe and Laura, it was Katie’s Plants first time growing for Chelsea, and boy did they deliver! We would not have been ‘best in category’ with you and all your efforts over the last year on this project. The plants were truly beautiful.

St. Margaret's House - For being our brilliant partner and getting so stuck in with the project from the get go. Your team has been nothing but accommodating and has gone above and beyond to help make this all happen. We are so proud to be one of the first charities from the 2023 cohort to be able to rehome our garden and this is truly down to all the hard work and prep you have done to make sure that was possible. Also special mention to the Gallery Cafe at St.Margarets House for your delicious canapes at our event. They brought the whole affair together.

Naoko Tagai- The brilliant artist and sculptor! The butterflies are so beautiful and the garden would not have been the same without them. They have been so well received and will be such a fantastic fundraising opportunity for the charity. We hope being part of Chelsea will be a great experience for you and your artistry moving forward.

Teucer Wilson - Renowned sculpture and creator of the portuguese limestone sculpture of the chrysalis and centre-piece to the Talitha Arts garden. Your work was detailed and brought the whole garden and message together. Thank you.

Our volunteers - Thank you so much to all our Talitha Arts Garden team who worked tirelessly throughout the show week on the stand with us representing Talitha and engaging the public in our work. You worked hard to learn the plants and talk about the garden as a whole in relation to its message. Show week couldn’t have happened with you.

Daphne Clifton - Our Chelsea Flower Show short term project manager. WOW! You worked day and night on this project and went above and beyond for the garden, designers and charity. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity and joy of working with such a powerhouse and fantastic project manager. You kept us all in check and calm throughout. It wouldn’t have been half the success without you.

Our Trustees- Thank you all for the roles you played in making this happen and trusting that this crazy idea would work out and be a great experience for Talitha. From speeches at events, to helping plan, to finance meetings, you all helped make the process smoother and possible.

Our Staff- This project has been on the cards for over a year and a half and the hard work began months and months before we were even able to announce it. We have pulled together, taken on roles and responsibilities that are not in our job descriptions, but have come together and shown the meaning of teamwork. We have shown that even though Talitha Arts might be small, it is mighty.

And you: Thank you to everyone who continues to support the work of Talitha Arts. Those who came to the garden, have supported us with kind words and donations and have been there for the garden and charity team. We are so grateful for you and grateful for this opportunity for Talitha Arts.

The show may be over, but the garden and its legacy for Talitha Arts is only just beginning…

Thank you.

Photography by: Alister Thorpe

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Wow! this is way more than a blog! What a story, which I hope will continue to grow, as the garden will at SMH. It was a pleasure and privilege to be part of your story. Daphne x

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