We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next year! Our Show Garden on Main Avenue is fully funded by grant-making charity Project Giving Back and designed by the RHS ’Young Designer of the Year’ 2017, Ula Maria.
The 'Muscular Dystrophy UK - Forest Bathing Garden' will offer an accessible, immersive forest bathing experience featuring more than 50 birch trees. 4,000 plants, the majority of which have been selected for their beautiful foliage, will create a green tapestry that is rich in texture, with an occasional burst of colour.
Forest bathing, otherwise known as Shinrin-yoku, is an ancient Japanese practice of spending time in the forest and soaking up its atmosphere through the senses. The garden seeks to create a sheltered space for its visitors – to give comfort and clarity, reconnect with oneself and nature, or accommodate conversation with others.
Visitors will access the garden through an accessible path that follows a slow-moving naturalised water stream. At the heart of the garden is a central meeting hub with informal seating and sculptural knapped flint walls that will provide a sheltered space for people to meet. The random knapped flint pattern was chosen by Ula due to its beautiful texture and form that is reminiscent of muscle cells.
A key feature of the garden is a large bungaroosh-style wall, which will be made using modular steelwork sections filled with a mix of reclaimed and recycled materials such as large stone blocks, slate tiles, and bricks. This building technique was chosen to showcase how a beautiful and contemporary-looking garden structure can be created using a variety of reclaimed materials.
After being displayed at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from 20-25 May 2024, the garden will be relocated to the public garden space at the new Institute of Developmental & Regenerative Medicine at the University of Oxford. There it will be a permanent place of refuge for patients during treatment and new trials, as well as clinicians, scientists and researchers and with access to the general public too.
Oxford holds a special significance for us, as the charity has been supporting scientific research in the city for over five decades and we hold our annual Bidwells Town and Gown 10k, which draws 5,000 runners, in the city.
Designer Ula Maria said:
This garden is all about connections: whether to oneself, nature, or others. It is meant to serve as a sanctuary whilst offering an immersive forest bathing experience. It is my hope that this garden will increase awareness of how places that are inspired by the people who inhabit them can have a meaningful effect on communities such as Muscular Dystrophy UK.
Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK said:
Thanks to the generous sponsorship from Project Giving Back, we are absolutely delighted to have a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. We want more people to know about Muscular Dystrophy and what it’s like to live with a muscle-wasting or weakening condition. Part of the challenge of a diagnosis is that no one has heard of it, you know no-one living with it and you have to explain it to everyone from family, friends, teachers, colleagues and even GPs. This opportunity will change that. It will allow us to reach people who have never heard of the condition, give our community a voice and raise awareness of the work of the charity.