Veterans and Students received the good news that the project they have worked on over the last seven months has won a Gold medal and Best Discovery Exhibit at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show….

The Force for Good garden was designed and created by military Veterans and Horticulture students to tell the powerful story of the role horticulture plays in the recovery and ongoing support of injured British Armed Forces personnel, Veterans and their families.

Gill Parker, an RAF Veteran who lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has been working on the project, she began studying Horticulture with Help for Heroes last year and was delighted to get involved in the collaboration between the military charity and Sparsholt College:

“Working on this project has been an amazing opportunity, not only have I seen the flowers bloom I’ve seen myself bloom and my confidence has grown. To get a gold medal is incredible, and then to win Best Garden in Section is even better. All of our hard work has paid off.”

The design of the garden was inspired from conversations between students and the veterans. These personal experiences have been brought to life through the planting to illustrate the positive impact gardening activity can have on mental health and the role horticulture plays in ongoing support and recovery.

The Force for Good is divided into three sections – ‘Surviving’, ‘Support’ and ‘Stability’:

Surviving: The positioning and grouping of plants show disorientation, the conflicting emotions and mental state of those being supported by Help for Heroes before they start to receive support.

Stability: the garden shows different horticultural activities undertaken nationwide with Help for Heroes – with a focus on crop production and horticulture skills.

Support: this section shows how planting and landscaping, including a still pool and seating, can create an area promoting recovery and ongoing support. The stage when an individual becomes an active member of their community again, and can make a positive impact in society once more.

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

After RHS Chelsea 2018 the garden’s legacy will continue this positive impact – with elements being re-homed and donated to community groups, to help more people learn, grow and heal through gardening.