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Louise's Chelsea Flower Show 2019 reflection

Hello readers, my name is Louise and I am a proud member of Groundwork’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB).

I contributed, along with my fellow members, to the production and delivery of the Facebook Garden: Beyond The Screen, aiming to make it as community orientated and possible. I’m going to detail my experience and after thoughts - to give additional insight and some food for thought. 

Beyond The Screen- why did Facebook sponsor a garden?

Another Chelsea Flower Show has been and gone, but the 2019 show has been a show season like no other and one to remember. For the first time in Chelsea Flower Show history, a social media giant sponsored a garden: the Facebook Garden, Beyond The Screen- designed by Joe Perkins.

The concept of Facebook sponsoring the garden was to highlight the amount of people that use Facebook as a platform to form communities centred around gardening and horticulture. To be more specific, there are 1.5 million separate groups on Facebook dedicated to the nation’s favourite hobby: gardening. Personally, while Facebook and other social media companies have been getting a lot of bad press – some of which is with good reason-, there is no denying, that such sites are unparalleled platforms. They are used for community start-ups, right the way through to large-scale political movements, to organise and share their message; it is important to consider how online interactions materialise into offline actions. 

My experience and the collective contribution Groundwork’s YAB

I can only speak for myself when I say that for me - as a passionate and self-employed gardener - contributing to a garden at and attending Chelsea Flower Show, was a opportunity of a lifetime; although I know at the very minimum, my fellow board members were very pleased to be involved.

A few other board members and I were very lucky to be involved throughout the process; we had various meetings with Facebook in the planning stage, where we tried to incorporate as much of Groundwork’s values into the garden as possible. Upon reflection, again speaking for myself, I was perhaps a little too optimistic as to how much we could do this.

I was very lucky to be able to attend the nursery in Taunton, where Joe Perkins- the designer of the garden- sourced/ stored his plants for the garden. As someone with a keen interest, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the planting scheme and plants themselves- it was a joy to do all of this with someone with such an extensive knowledge base and was a great experience for me as a gardener. While at the nursery, Joe explained in a greater depth the inspiration and ideas of the garden, which I later relayed to those visiting the garden when it was open to the public.

What did materialise from the meetings with Facebook however, was raising the importance of how online actions can have positive offline impacts; in collaboration with Facebook, Groundwork came up with the idea of a 'message tree'. The message tree featured hanging discs on the branches, upon which gardening tips were written; these messages came from online and in-person contributions. To see some of the tips that were added to the message tree, visit Groundwork’s social media pages. The message tree presented a good platform to get involved in the garden, without even being present, just as many people do with the gardening groups they’re involved in online- creating online communities. Unfortunately, the message tree was only on-site for the press-day and as a consequence, this didn’t reach as wide an audience as it could have.

To further our presence at the show, Groundwork ensured to produce relevant content throughout the production and show season-all of which can be seen on Groundwork Youth social media pages.

Groundwork’s presence at the Chelsea Flower Show 2019 was a perfect opportunity for myself and other members of Groundwork Youth to promote the workings of the organisation and to network. Four community groups were also asked to attend the Flower Show as Facebook’s community groups: Incredible Edible Oxford, Southampton Guerrilla Gardening, The Giant Vegetable Growing Community, DeafGardenersRUs. All of these community groups were focused around gardening and/ or various different forms of permaculture; for me, who’s especially interested in these subjects, it was a great opportunity for knowledge sharing. It also presented the potential for some collaborative work between members of the YAB and the four community groups, which I hope will be realised.

What I’ve taken away

It is more than fair to say that I over-estimated the impact that the YAB could have with regards to the garden; the event is highly prestigious and exclusive and breaking down these barriers to change is not by any means an easy feat…so I am very proud of what Groundwork Youth did achieve - especially when considering that this year’s show was a first, in many respects, as previously mentioned. Regardless of people’s opinions on the reasoning for the involvement of community partners and representative community groups, with the Facebook garden, the presence alone of Groundwork and the other community groups, had a significant positive impact.

I hope that this year’s show will pave the way for future shows and that moving forward, more and more community groups will be involved in this event to make it more inclusive and encourage a wider range of people to get involved in gardening.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and if you have any further questions or are looking for ways to get involved in gardening, please visit Groundwork’s Youth social media pages.

Louise is a member of Groundwork's Youth Advisory Board.

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