Leigh Johnstone aka The Beardy Gardener as he is known on Instagram, started the Giving Garden during lockdown in his own garden at home. He used a raised bed and encouraged people to nominate a friend, colleague or family member who was having a tough time and Leigh would dedicate a plant to them, adding their name to the side of the planter. Fast forward three years and the Giving Garden, which has grown, pardon the pun, in Leigh’s own garden was recreated as a show garden for the annual RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.
The Giving Garden Design
Leigh’s aim was to reflect the original Giving Garden in his Hampton Court design and central to the show garden design was two large WoodBlocX raised beds, a pathway through the middle, a decorative archway and lots of colour. Whilst the Giving Garden is about helping people through gardening and the positivity of plants Leigh’s garden represents three additional acts of giving, the first act of giving came from the raised beds and the plants donated to the garden, the wildflower strip around the beds is giving to nature and the archway above featuring the question ‘As you pass through, ask yourself, how you feel today’ gives meaning.
Leigh said: “I knew that the garden at Hampton Court needed to reflect the original space so the raised beds were central to that. I wanted a pathway through the middle so people could reflect and immerse themselves in the space. I also wanted a wildflower strip around the edge to make a powerful statement about giving back to nature, which is somewhat important to my wellbeing.”
The Giving Garden Plant list
All of the plants in the raised beds were donated by the nurseries ahead of the show starting so Leigh had no idea what the final design would look like. Thankfully it turned out perfectly and the beds were filled with shape and colour, complimenting the wildflower turf which surrounded each of the beds.
The plants included: Salvia, Hostas, Achillea, Coreopsis, Ferns, Astrantia, Scabious and Tiarella.
Leigh's experience at Hampton Court
"It was incredible. Last year I had the honour to host a stage in the floral marquee and here I am this year creating an actual garden! I still can't quite believe that I have done it. Everyone was so lovely, especially all the nurseries in the floral marquee, it's like a little family. The build week flew by and then the show week is such a surreal experience as people come by and tell you have wonderful the garden is that you have created. It can be overwhelming at times and I did need to take some time out to calm and ground myself a bit. I loved it though, it's a fabulous experience."
The Giving Garden Keeps on giving
We were pleased to hear that the Giving Garden did not end at RHS Hampton Court! It has carried on giving with one raised bed being donated to Wayward, a plant and rehoming charity partner for the RHS and is intended for a community garden in the north of England and the second raised bed has been given to New Hope, a homeless charity in Watford.