Co-designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and landscape architects Andrèe Davies and Adam White, the RHS Back To Nature Garden is taking Chelsea Flower Show visitors back to their childhood roots with a woodland play garden complete with a magical rustic treehouse. We go behind the scenes to find out what their garden has to offer and how it could be a game changer for nature-loving families.
When we heard that Andrèe Davies, Adam White and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge planned to build a treehouse in their garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, we certainly didn’t expect them to be our neighbours. Nevertheless, the children’s woodland garden is being built right next to our own treehouse exhibit, along the prestigious Main Avenue strip.
‘We’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting alongside some truly amazing brands and garden designers over the last few years,’ explains Simon, Blue Forest’s Director of Marketing. ‘At first, we were really excited to hear that the RHS Back to Nature Garden would be right next to our exhibit, but now we know they’re including a treehouse we’re thrilled.’
The RHS Back to Nature Garden, co-designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and award-winning landscape architects Andrèe Davies and Adam White. Copyright: Richard Carman
Ever since the designs were first unveiled, the RHS Back to Nature garden has been drawing national interest. Co-designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and renowned Landscape Architects Andrèe Davies and Adam White, the woodland garden includes a beautifully crafted hollow log for children to climb through, a den, waterfall, trickling stream and tree house.
Creating a magical woodland garden…
A cascading waterfall and trickling stream winds its way through the garden, giving families the chance to play and interact with the water. Time can be spent floating Pooh sticks and chasing them along the stream or making dams with stones and sand to attract more wildlife. Children and adults alike can balance on the stepping stones, or simply cool down with a paddle on a hot summer’s day.
Wild trees and shrubs in a calming colour palette of greens and blues provide an instant ‘nature fix’ to relax and calm. The playful and diverse planting scheme includes edibles, plants that can be used for craft activities and perfume the air with forest scents, ranging from tiny wild strawberries to magnificent trees.
A playful pathway bordered with foliage featuring large and small leaves weaves through the garden around rocks and stepping stones, adding texture and interest to the design. A key element of the planting scheme was to ensure that the flowers, fruits and seeds all provide food for wildlife and nectar for bees and butterflies. Many plants also provide nesting sites for birds, and shelter for animals.
The Back To Nature treehouse…
Considered to be the centrepiece of the garden, the treehouse is built into a beautiful tree with a high platform, clad in stag horn oak. The structure has a natural, rustic feel with the stag horn looking like a bird or animal that has built a home in the tree. A swing seat hangs from the branches, creating a place for children and families to play together.
“There are many sensory elements to help children to learn. Active play in the fresh air is also important for a child’s development and getting back to nature has been shown to be good for developing creativity, increasing physical activity and reducing stress.” – Sue Biggs, RHS Director General
Adam and Andrèe are no strangers to incorporating natural play structures into show gardens. Their 2017 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show garden featured a magnificent wooden look-out nest, which was made with rustic branches and offered expansive views of the woodland garden and stream below.
The Zoflora and Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden. Designed by: Adam White & Andrée Davies (Davies White Ltd). Sponsored by: Zoflora. RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017. Credit: Neil Hepworth via The RHS.
Exploring our relationship with the great outdoors
The garden’s design draws on the special relationship between childhood memories and the natural world, giving families a woodland space where they can create special moments together that can be treasured for years to come.
“We couldn’t be happier with the wonderful design created by The Duchess of Cambridge, Andrée and Adam for our Garden at Chelsea this year,” says Sue Biggs, RHS Director General. “The RHS’s Garden will be a natural space for families to get together, play, dig, grow plants, connect with nature and spend time in the great outdoors – something core to us as a charity to promote, inspire and encourage people to do.”
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge talks with students at RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood group King Henry’s Walk Garden in Islington. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett @ The RHS
The RHS Back to Nature Garden is a key part of the RHS’s partnership with NHS England, helping to promote the physical and emotional benefits gained from spending time in green spaces and gardening. After the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, much of the planting and landscaping will be moved to an NHS Mental Health Trust, as part of a national competition run by the RHS.
Continuing the collaboration and to engage even wider audiences, The Duchess of Cambridge and Davies White will be co-designing two further RHS Gardens, continuing many elements from the Garden at Chelsea, at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (2 July – 7 July 2019) and RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which will open in the Autumn later this year.
Main Image: HRH The Duchess of Cambridge paints bird boxes with RHS Director General Sue Biggs at RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood group King Henry’s Walk Garden at Islington. Copyright: RHS Credit: Suzanne Plunkett