Benefits of gardens highlighted as ‘virtual’ Chelsea Flower Show begins

Crowds normally flock to the Chelsea Flower Show but it has been forced online by the pandemic Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Horticultural experts are highlighting the value of gardening for people’s well being during lockdown as the Chelsea Flower Show kicks off online.

This week, royals, celebrities and members of the public were expecting to head to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London, to see the gardens and displays at the world famous flower show.

But with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the physical show, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has taken the showpiece gardening event online, with content on different themes added each day from May 18-23.

There will be insights into the gardens and nurseries of top gardeners, Chelsea designers and horticultural specialists, with themes for each day ranging from wildlife garden to health and well being, perfect plants and growing in small and indoor spaces.

Visitors will also be able to go on a lockdown tour of London’s parks, see potting demonstrations, check out the “school gardening club” and join lunchtime Q&As with garden experts.

It comes as polling for the RHS suggests a majority of people (57%) who have gardens and outdoor spaces value them more than before lockdown and seven in 10 (71%) feel they have helped their mental health in recent weeks.

TV gardener Monty Don, who is helping kick off the virtual Chelsea Flower Show by giving RHS members a glimpse into unseen parts of his famous garden at Longmeadow, said gardens were “desperately important”.

“I have written and spoken many times of my own battles with depression and over the years have been much helped by medication, therapy, sun lamps, yoga and, not least, by an astonishingly supportive and long-suffering family.

“But none of this works without the balm of touching ground, of being nourished by the earth.

“We garden to nurture our little corner of nature but just as importantly, to nourish our souls and more and more people are tapping into its healing power,” he said.

“Plant a seed that becomes a beautiful flower and your life is immeasurably enriched. Simply sit in a garden and listen to the birds and the world is set in a perspective that is empowering.

“Gardens are fun and beautiful and rewarding – but much more than that, gardens are desperately important and we need them now more than ever for our physical and mental well-being.”

Sue Biggs, RHS director general, said: “Following lockdown, one of the biggest concerns in the UK is going to be people’s mental health.

“With our research showing that 70% of people feel their gardens have helped their mental health during this time, the RHS is urging developers, local planners and the Government to value gardens as much as the public do.”

She said the Government must stipulate that new homes have private or communal gardens or a balcony.

The call comes after National Statistics revealed one in eight households in England has had no access to a garden during the coronavirus lockdown.