Grenfell non-profit creates Chelsea’s smallest show garden
A grassroots charity founded in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire has created the “smallest” garden to appear at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
‘The Green Gap’ measures just 4.2m2 – a 1:10 scale representation of green space available to the most deprived residents living in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Based in North Kensington, Grow2Know was formed in 2017 after members of the community surrounding Grenfell used guerrilla gardening as a way to heal after the tragedy. Its ‘Hands Off Mangrove’ show garden last year, which scooped a Silver-Gilt medal, sought to highlight both social injustice and the effects of deforestation.
Founder Tayshan Hayden-Smith, who lives in the shadow of Grenfell himself and is an RHS Ambassador for Young People and Communities, is using the platform of the world-famous show this week to raise awareness of the lack of green space available to the most deprived households.
In collaboration with urban design and planning practice Prior + Partners, a series of infographics have been released alongside the exhibition to show the disparity in access to green space and the life expectancy between those living near Grenfell and the wealthiest in the London borough.
The “worst served” residents in Notting Dale, the ward where Grenfell is situated, have access to 42m2 of total public parks and gardens per person within a one-kilometre radius, compared to those in the “best served” area of Queen’s Gate having access to 2,149m2, despite only being two miles apart. The research also revealed that the life expectancy of those living in the north compared to those in the south is different by nine years.
Grow2Know aims to address this “green divide” by continuing to improve green space in local communities through its partnerships and projects, which include some big household names and prolific sites. One is with the Natural History Museum, designing planters as part of the museum’s Urban Nature Project. Another partnership is with Nike, creating a content series around trail running and how this can widen a person’s access nature. Then there’s its project with the Peter Rabbit franchise to build a garden at a local primary school.
The offers and opportunities are seemingly endless, and the growth of the non-profit – and Hayden-Smith’s popularity after appearing on Your Garden Made Perfect – has been rapid. That’s why, at the start of the year, Grow2Know paused to consider its purpose and its long-term goals, explains chief operations officer Imani Thompson, who joined the team last December.
“It’s grown so organically and naturally, as often happens with non-profits and startups, and we got to the point of questioning, if we’re going to bring structure to this, what will that structure look like? So, we have decided to become a fully-fledged garden design studio, but we’re designing in a very collaborative manner; we’d like to engage different garden designers.”
School children on The Green Gap garden at Chelsea. Credit: John Nguyen/PA Wire
Grow2Know is in consultation with property group Grosvenor on the design of a garden in Eaton Square, which will become an open space for school children to utilise a few days a week. “We want to transform it into this immersive space with nature and play for kids,” says Thompson. “The project has made us see we could design with a difference, with nature first, and look to work in a collaborative manner.”
It’s these projects that will then fund “the core” of Grow2Know’s non-profit work – education. “That’s what we’re most passionate about – boosting open access, online content, workshops and courses.”
Hayden-Smith was in parliament last week talking to the Horticultural Sector Committee about how horticulture needs to be introduced into the curriculum to start engaging children from a variety of backgrounds from a young age.
“We really are so intent on engaging the next generation of gardeners,” says Thompson, who was pleased to see gardens such as Centre for Mental Health’s The Balance Garden, designed by Wild City Studio, showcasing “how we can allow nature to encroach back into our spaces”. Thompson also praised Tom Massey’s The Royal Entomological Society Garden for highlighting “gardening for a changing climate” and “engaging a younger generation,” as human puppets hovered around the garden as a dragonfly, an ant, a hornet and a rhino beetle.
For Grow2Know, it plans to use its opportunities and the platforms available to promote its founding message around the benefits of green space and why it should be accessible to all, as well as encouraging children to be passionate about gardening and horticulture. There are arguably few better global better stages than Chelsea.