Starting conversations around grief at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

08 Jan 2024
A Sue Ryder collage display for the Chelsea Flower Show, showing lots of blue flowers, grass and two blue figures standing together

Sue Ryder will be presenting a Grief Kind Garden in the ‘All About Plants’ category at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We'll be exploring the theme of grief with a sensory garden designed by award winning designer, Katherine Holland at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.

The ‘All About Plants’ category garden is sponsored by Project Giving Back, the unique grant-giving charity that funds gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will provide a safe and peaceful sanctuary in which to sit and be enveloped in the beauty of nature, whilst encouraging visitors to share their experiences of grief or to take a moment for quiet reflection.

The theme of the charity’s garden has been inspired by its Grief Kind movement, encouraging people to be there when it matters and to equip them with the knowledge and tools, they need to support themselves, or those who are grieving.

Katherine Holland, designer of the garden

Katherine Holland previously collaborated with Sue Ryder at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival, in 2022, winning an RHS Silver Medal for the concept garden “A Journey.” Katherine is continuing her conversation around grief at RHS Chelsea and will be drawing on her own experience of grief, to emulate the type of green space she needed when she was bereaved.

Following the show, the garden will be relocated in its entirety to Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in Bedford. Its new location will provide a long-lasting legacy, as a dedicated space for grieving. It will be able to accommodate varying mobility needs and will offer a place of solace for hospice staff, patients, their families and the local community.

As the garden’s forever home will be in Bedford, Katherine has taken inspiration from the area’s history in lace production, using some of the organic shapes from the famous Midlands ‘Bud’ lace, to create the designs for the planting borders and the York stone paving in the garden.  

To ensure year-round interest, Katherine has carefully selected a range of sensory perennial plants and a number of unusual specimen trees including Heptacodium miconioides which has deep green foliage and pretty clusters of scented flowers in late summer; Rhamnus asplenifolia with its filigree lace foliage and a multi-stemmed form of Tilia henryana which has textural leaves and fragrant flowers.

Garden designer, Katherine Holland, who has designed Sue Ryder's Grief Kind Garden

Katherine Holland, garden designer

The heart of the garden features a welcoming meeting space with three chairs set around a coffee table.

During show week the table will feature a rotating display of personal objects from Katherine and some of Sue Ryder’s garden volunteers. The objects will symbolise loved ones who have died and the space highlights the importance of starting conversations around loss and grief with others.

With 86% of people who have been bereaved saying they felt alone in their grief, the charity and Katherine hope that visitors to the Grief Kind Garden at the show, and in its future home in Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, will be able to meet grief with warmth and compassion.

Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, says:

“Sue Ryder is delighted to be working with Katherine Holland on this exciting opportunity with Project Giving Back at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.

“We firmly believe that together, we can make sure everyone has access to the right support, at the right time, so no one has to face grief alone. We hope that visitors to our Grief Kind Garden will reflect on their own or others’ grief by connecting with this space. We hope people leave it feeling confident to start open conversations about grief and having a better understanding of what good grief support looks like."

Katherine Holland, designer of the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden, commented: “The Sue Ryder Grief Kind campaign is one that is so close to my heart. My own experiences of grief and other people’s misunderstanding of it, has made me want grief to be talked about more openly, to help support those who are grieving and those who are close to them. 

“At the RHS Hampton Court Show, we found so many people connected with the space and shared their stories of grief with us, highlighting a real need to discuss it. So, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I really wanted to build upon the conversations we started about grief using the medium of plants. I hope the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will encourage people to have these very important conversations around grief, whilst surrounded by nature and see it as a place of solace to help to learn to live with grief.”

Sue Ryder offers a range of bereavement support services, so that everyone can access advice and support for themselves, or a loved one, including free online counselling sessions and an online bereavement community.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place between 21st -25th May 2024 and will be showcasing an array of amazing garden designs and floral displays, including the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden.

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