Council to showcase innovative sensory garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival

Southend-on-Sea City Council will once again present a show garden at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival from 2 to 7 July.

A colourful garden display complete with nautical decorations such as a a ship's wheel and portholes on the fence. The garden is filled with a variety of vibrant flowers and greenery.

This is the council's 15th year of participation in the festival, renowned for exceptional garden designs and horticultural innovations, attracting global visitors and participants.

The council's Lighthouse Garden has been created for its permanent home at The Lighthouse Child Development Centre in Southend, which offers services for children and young people aged 0 to 18 years with neurodevelopmental and neurodisability disorders.

Key features include sensory stimulation elements such as a circular mirror made of copper laminate, textured walls, and reflective planters. Sustainable design principles are embodied using recycled materials, including weathered timber from Southend Pier for textured steps.

After the festival, the sensory garden will be relocated to The Lighthouse Child Development Centre, where it will continue to enrich the lives of children and young people with neurodevelopmental and neurodisability disorders.

The garden was developed with the help of young people from the Youth Justice Service as part of their community reparation. These individuals demonstrated dedication to the project, working towards a City and Guilds Level 1 in Practical Horticulture Skills, allowing them to learn new skills through gardening.

The garden was designed by Tracy Harman, a council officer from the children and public health department and an accomplished garden designer, alongside Tony Wagstaff, an early help family support practitioner. Tony, who has been the driving force behind the council’s previous RHS show gardens, will be making his final contribution this year after 15 years of dedicated service.

Thanks to Tony and all the young people and supporters he has worked with, the council has won multiple awards at the festival over the past 15 years, including four bronze, four silver, and two silver-gilt awards. Many of the young people who helped with the garden's hard landscaping are either clients of the Lighthouse Centre or have siblings who use the facility.

Michael Marks, executive director for children and public health at Southend-on-Sea City Council, said: “For 15 years, the council has proudly submitted a garden to the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. Each year, the detail and intricacy of our gardens grow, and the messages they convey become more impactful.

"Collaborating with the Youth Justice Service allows us to promote personal wellbeing and demonstrate the significant benefits of gardening for both physical and mental health. We aim to show that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a garden.

"I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Tony for his years of hard work and dedication, which have helped transform many young lives through the power of gardening."

Tony Wagstaff added: "Although I am saddened that this will be my final involvement with the council at RHS Hampton Court Palace, it has been an honour to showcase the talents of young people year after year. This year’s garden truly reflects their dedication and potential."

An interview with Tony from the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival is available to watch on our YouTube channel.

For more information and to vote for the council’s sensory garden, visit the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival website.

Published: 28th June 2024

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