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Garden designer crouched by bed of flowers

A community centre in Maybury, Woking has undergone a vibrant transformation to better respond to the community’s needs, designed by budding RHS Diploma student, Lois O’Connell.

The Arch Community Centre in Maybury, Woking owned by Woking Borough Council and leased to the Woking Asian Business Forum was the muse for level 4 students on the RHS Diploma in Horticultural Practice course.

Student Lois O’Connell’s design ‘Live in Colour Garden’ was selected to give the communal space a breath of fresh air, creating a collective space, informed by, and designed for the local community.

Garden designer painting a park bench blue

Garden designer, Lois O’Connell. Credit to RHS/Ollie Dixon

“We looked around the site when we arrived and saw that it was really uninspiring, the community centre itself was a very unadorned building, with some quite unfriendly features.

“We wanted to make it a much more friendly and inviting space. I noticed some bright colours in the children’s play park opposite and decided to mirror them in the public space, something for everyone to enjoy.”

Taking inspiration from the much-loved children’s play area adorning the space, O’Connell’s design connects the two, creating a cohesive and welcoming environment, that gives back to the community.

“On a hard landscaping level, I took three colours from the play park, and I painted some of the existing furniture, such as the benches, which are now cobalt blue.

“We also built a new 10-seater bench and painted it sunset orange.

“We installed a new gate and painted it a vivid yellow, and I repeated these colours throughout.”

The gardens planting echos the same pallet, with Geums, Buddlejas and Rudbeckias, low maintenance perennial flowers, providing semi-evergreen foliage in the park beds. While autumnal and winter tones are present in Crytpomeirias and Mahonias, creating a multi-season boarder for pollinators and people to enjoy.

“It’s about using a limited but vibrant colour pallet.

A group of RHS garden design students

RHS Diploma Students, Eloise, Nick, James, Jonny, Lois, Ollie and Jonathan. Credit to RHS/Ollie Dixon

O’Connell’s multi-faceted design responds to the needs of the community, creating a valuable shared space for all ages.

“There are a variety of user groups of the community space, we have an early year’s group, we have the yoga group, and a lady’s coffee morning group, everybody wanted something that they felt was for them.”

“The ten-seater bench is multi-functional in that it’s got raised planters on the back so it can be used for gardening activities, which meets the needs of a mental health charity.”

The garden redesign is being jointly funded by the RHS and Catalyst, a mental health charity situated in Surrey, who will be co-ordinating and running activities in the garden, creating an invaluable safe space for those in the community and enabling people to experience the therapeutic benefits of engaging with nature.

“We’ve made a children’s story telling circle which while intended for children, the planting is really beautiful, it enhances the space for people who just want to walk through and enjoy it.”

O’Connell has used annual growers between evergreen grasses and perennial groundcover with mixed seasonal interests throughout a shady woodland, with a winding path leading towards the children’s story circle, ensuring all areas of the garden are multi-seasonal to get the most value from the now vibrant space.

People planting

Credit to RHS/Ollie Dixon

The ‘Live in Colour’ explores the notion of embracing vibrancy, and puts the community at it’s centre. Community spirit was ever present throughout the gardens build and opening, with the community keen to embrace the new space.

“It was amazing to see everyone involved in the build applying themselves at 100%.

“On opening day, a lot of members of the community either came to help plant or to watch the ribbon get cut and we had some curious children walking around the garden before we finished it.

“You could see people moving into the space and taking it on immediately which is really nice to see.”

The gardens development was supported by Woking Borough Council as part of a wider ten-year health and wellbeing initiative for the area.

The space now affords therapeutic and physical health benefits for all demographics, making it an invaluable space for all demographics to embrace the vibrancy on show.

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