How Andy Sturgeon’s garden for Mind encourages mental health conversation

We speak to Andy Sturgeon to find out more about what’s involved in his garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Built for mental health charity, Mind, we ask how the garden encourages all-important conversations about mental health through its design and why it’s important to have at the Chelsea Flower Show today.

This year, the mental health charity Mind is hosting a garden on the Main Avenue at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Funded by Project Giving Back and designed by eight-time RHS Chelsea gold medal winner, Andy Sturgeon, the garden aims to encourage all-important conversations about mental health and provide a safe space.

Andy’s design creates a sanctuary for conversation in the Mind Garden. A circular seating area is set within curved clay rendered walls – it’s a place to sit side-by-side and share experiences and advice, surrounded by meadow-like spaces and calming trees. A gravel path then arcs down to a lower level, bringing people together before the garden opens out before them.

Andy said: “The garden is an open area which is embraced by the walls. It is a safe and secure space for visitors to sit, which is something of huge importance to those suffering. Mental health is an area people have been talking increasingly about, and right now feels like a good time to use the platform at Chelsea Flower Show to re-enforce and further raise awareness about mental health.”

For Andy, it was important he designed something that steered away from anything traditional as he believes this wouldn’t encourage conversation towards understanding the aim of the garden. Providing glimpses of the garden through the walls aims to encourage and prompt this conversation.

He added: “The walls themselves are almost mimicking conversation in the way that they circle around each other and are face-to-face. As you move towards the centre of the garden, the walls become very close together in turmoil, but moving away, they start to spread out.”

The garden includes birch trees that resemble a roof to the area, whilst offering “gentle light through their branches” too – all of which help to create that calming, relaxed, and enclosed atmosphere.

In the lead-up to his design, Andy met with Mind volunteers who shared their experiences of mental health problems and how opening up to others has helped them.

He added: “Speaking with the volunteers enforced and enhanced my thoughts about my design. It was interesting to show the design to people who have suffered from traumatic mental health issues, and to hear about their understanding of the garden and its positivity.”

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year, and reaches millions more through the wide media coverage. The show provides a platform for Mind to highlight the importance of reaching out and seeking mental health support, which has never been more timely. The nation is currently facing a mental health crisis and Mind’s research revealed that two in three adults say their mental health has worsened since the first lockdown. However, on a more positive note, the research also found that spending time outdoors is the most popular way to cope, this highlighting the clear synergy between mental health and spending time in nature.

Post Chelsea Flower Show, The Mind Garden will be relocated to a local Mind where it can be used to fulfil its purpose and provide a safe space for conversation over the years to come.

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