Blooming Makeover for Chiltern Centre Garden

The Chiltern Centre garden at the respite centre for young adults in Chiltern’s End Close has had a makeover thanks to a design developed by KLC School of Design, Jane McFarlane-Duckworth and her team from The Flower Union and volunteers from the charity over the last month.

The garden had not been changed since the centre stopped providing respite care for children under 16, two years ago.  The new design and planting scheme has been developed with young adults very much in mind.

Jane from The Flower Union said, “My friend, Victoria Newton who I co-run the Chelsea Fringe Henley with tagged me on the Chiltern Centre Facebook post asking for someone to help bring their design to life and we’ve worked together on the project.  We looked at the design with the Chiltern Centre and we tweaked it a bit to make it really relevant to the young adults who come here.  It really now has a young adult appeal rather than the young children space it was before.”

“We chose plants that were tactile but non-toxic with seasonal variation and relatively low maintenance.  Things that could be cared for by the adults who use the Centre but hopefully not arduous for the staff.  We wanted to make a therapeutic environment so that’s there’s lots of whites and greens, lots of scented plants, plus an edibles area. We’ve planted lots of jasmine, lavender etc plus plants that have interest over winter and spring.  We also wanted to attract pollinators and we’ve put up bird feeders and bug houses to encourage birds and wildlife.  We’ve been careful not to have anything that could cause any reaction to skins.  It was lovely to take some of the young adults to a nursery to choose some of the plants too.  I’m really pleased with the transformation, it feels like quite a different space now and it’s great to see the reaction already from the young adults who come to the Centre.”

Victoria commented, “The garden project and fundraising appeal to raise £6,000 was launched as part of this year’s Chelsea Fringe Henley with a lovely video by local company We Are Creative featuring Chiltern Centre Patron, opera singer Alex Haigh narrating and singing which was filmed at Badgemore School.  We’ve had lots of volunteers help with the garden including painting the fence and putting up the bunting and we’re received some lovely donations from Toad Hall and other local nurseries.  The whole thing has been a lovely collaboration.”

Emma Lerche-Thomsen Chiltern Centre Fundraiser said, “From the outset Victoria and Jane were keen to design a space that focused not only on the beauty plants but also the the practicalities of upkeep and maintenance. As a Centre we were keen that some of young people could be encouraged and trained to get involved with the garden. We are continuing to fundraise for our project and were able to launch it this month thanks to the funding secured from individual donations and from goodwill in kind with garden vouchers from Toad Hall.  We are very grateful to Victoria, Jane, Esther and all the team as the transformation of the garden has begun. It will enable our young people at the Centre to enjoy the sights, smells and sensations of the garden and we are even having a Bell Tent set up for our young people to relax in.

The garden has various zones to allow for different uses and can be used by both staff, the young adults and their families at the same time.  There’s the festival zone with a tepee tent, a seated relaxing area, an edibles area with table and chairs, a raised garden beds area which can be used for garden education and is interactive.  The original accessible trampoline and roundabout have been incorporated into the new design. The former seaside mural has been painted over and a volunteer art teacher has come forward to design a new one which she hopes Henley College students will help paint.  Another mural painter has offered their time for a new mural to be painted in the garden.

Jane and Victoria were being helped by some great young trainees Jane had recruited to The Flower Union which she has converted to a social enterprise over the last year.  Jane explained, “Over lockdown I reflected on what I was doing.  We are now a purpose focused organisation rather than profit focussed and our purpose is to empower young adults through flowers and gardens.  We train up the young people who are referred to us through various services or word of mouth.   We train them up in basic horticultural garden skills and encourage professionalism and respect for clients along with building their self esteem.”

“We’ve taken the design off the paper and brought it to life, there’s still lots of ideas that can be added to, like plants the garden can grow.  If anyone would like to help with donations or time, please contact the Centre,” added Victoria.

If you’d like to take a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful video here is the link and if you are able to donate for us to continue to maintain the garden. You will find text donate information at the end of the film follow this virgin money link