We might not be able to smell the roses online, but gardening makes us feel better, say organisers
This year’s physical Chelsea Flower Show has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but as an online version takes its place, gardening experts are highlighting the mental health benefits of horticulture and encouraging us to make the sot of our gardens.
Long queues built up when garden centres in England and Wales reopened last week, and seed firms have reported a huge increase in sales. But gardeners will still miss the Chelsea Flower Show, a hardy perennial of the gardening world.
The Chelsea Flower Show, normally a hot-spot for celebrities, Royals and thousands of keen gardeners, has been cancelled by organisers the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), but instead there are online events from 18th-23rd May.
Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, vice president of the horticultural organisation, said gardens had a transformative effect:
“At the RHS we know just how powerful gardens can be, we know how a garden can transform your home but it can also change your community, it can change the environment just a little bit outside your back door.
“It can also transform you as a person.
“If we all connect with that little bit of earth just outside our home, that connects too with the wider world, it gives us an understanding of nature, a respect and a duty of care to the wider world and the landscape which is so important.
“Without that, our world will crumble.”
TV gardener Monty Don, who is opening the show by giving RHS members a glimpse of the unseen parts of his Longmeadow garden, said outdoor spaces were “desperately important”.
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“I have written and spoken many times of my own battles with depression, and over the years have been much helped by medication, therapy, sun lamps, yoga and, not least, by an astonishingly supportive and long-suffering family,” he said. “But none of this works without the balm of touching ground, of being nourished by the earth.
“Plant a seed that becomes a beautiful flower and your life is immeasurably enriched. Simply sit in a garden and listen to the birds and the world is set in a perspective that is empowering.
“Gardens are fun and beautiful and rewarding – but much more than that, gardens are desperately important and we need them now more than ever for our physical and mental wellbeing.”
Highlights of the virtual show will include behind-the-scenes tours of award-winning nurseries, plant potting demonstrations, a school gardening club with activities for children, and lunchtime Q&A sessions with gardening experts. Special daily themes will include wildlife gardens, health and wellbeing, and cultivating small and indoor spaces.
The event will be particularly welcomed by those who have embraced green spaces during lockdown. An RHS poll found 57 percent of people who have gardens and outdoor spaces value them more now than before lockdown, and 71 percent feel they have helped with their mental health in recent weeks.
But in light of ONS figures showing that one in eight people do not have access to a private or shared garden, rising to one in five in London, Sue Biggs, director general of the RHS, is calling on the government to stipulate that new homes must have private or communal gardens or a balcony.
“With our research showing that 70 percent of people feel their gardens have helped their mental health during this time, the RHS is urging developers, local planners and the government to value gardens as much as the public do,” she said.
Virtual Chelsea starts on Monday 18th May for RHS members only, with the rest of the week from Tuesday open to the public.