The garden won a gold medal yesterday for first time Chelsea designer Ian Price and for idverde, which built as well as sponsored the garden, with the help of Cormac McConway (Conway Landscape), Craig Nester (Habitat Landscaping), Ross Conquest (Conquest Hard Landscaping) and Writtle College students.
Bayford said the show had achieved idverde’s objectives of spreading its key messages, supporting up-and-coming landscapers, and the charities Heads Together, Perennial and Inspire, working with its trusted supply chain and receiving the high honour of an RHS gold.
"Chelsea is the biggest stage in horticulture. An organisation of our size and specialism should really be engaged in the pinnacle of the horticultural calendar," Bayford said. "Being part of it is really important. This is much more about the numerous connections that the garden that we’re sponsoring has with our role with The Parks Alliance and our role in ensuring that our parks are funded properly."
Northern Irish designer Ian Price’s aim was to create a garden which gives visitors an insight into what it is like to suffer from and live with mental health issues. His design features metal walls and cages to evoke the feeling of being trapped by mental ill-health and a black-water pond which gently ripples to give a distorted reflection of anyone who looks at it.
First-time Chelsea designer Price suffered himself from depression for 12 years. He said: "I am totally overwhelmed by the response of the judges and visitors to Mind Trap" he said. "When I first set out to create this garden, I wanted to turn my experience of battling depression into something positive," he said. "As the idea progressed and I received so much positive feedback about my mission, I realised just how important it could be to so many others too. To have now achieved the recognition of the RHS with this gold medal has just blown me away completely and I feel so honoured to have been given the opportunity."
Bayford, who is also vice chair of The Parks Alliance, said the project was as much about raising awareness of the importance of access to green space to people’s mental health as it is about raising awareness of mental health itself.
"Everyone is waking up to the fact that green space is good for mental health. We believe that there’s an opportunity to promote green space and its connections with quality of life and mental wellbeing. There was no expectation that we head into this and suddenly diversify into domestic design and build. That’s not the aim. The aim was to be a part of something significant in the calendar and use it as a stage for this message and the messaging around it – building it through social media and partnerships with mental health charities and so on. It’s not meant to be a depressive garden, it’s a garden about depression, and it’s a garden for everybody."
Bayford said that the garden is also helping the company with internal communication – to try and break through the stigma that problems with mental health have had. It is estimated that one in four of us are suffering from mental ill health at any time – potentially 625 of idverde’s 2,500 staff, all of whom have access to an employee support programme.
"We all like to think that horticulture is stress free but it’s not and we’re a business and you’ve got to perform. This is a real opportunity to kind of get beyond the barrier. We’ve all got mental health. Sometimes it good and sometimes it’s bad. We think that it will have been worth it even if people within idverde are happy to speak up when they have problems. When people can say I’m happy to say that, I’m not going to hide behind absence, I’m going to speak up and know that there’s not stigma associated with that. That’s a good and strong message."
He added: "I think there is a strong relevance between health and horticulture and I do believe that people are responding to that. Personally this has been the most rewarding experience and opportunity to support and raise awareness."
The garden can be seen at the show until Saturday, when the proceeds from its plant sale will be donated to the three charities.