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Garden to help soldiers’ recovery

Southampton’s Shannon Smith is part of the student team at Sparsholt College hoping for medal success at RHS Chelsea 2018.


Sparsholt have teamed up with the charity Help for Heroes to create the garden, The Force for Good, which will tell the powerful story of the role horticulture plays in the recovery and ongoing support of injured British Armed Forces personnel and their families.


Individual stories are told through the three elements of the garden as the team of college and former military gardeners inform visitors of the journey from injury or illness through to recovery and beyond.


The Force for Good garden is a demonstration of how horticulture has given these individuals a second chance at life and how everyone can benefit from its therapeutic benefits.


Shannon and Sparsholt College’s Horticulture students are working collaboratively with their Help for Heroes counterparts to design and create The Force for Good, a garden of three different sections. Shannon was inspired by conversations at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House in Wiltshire where those being supported by the charity take part in gardening activities.


Shannon said: “Growing up with a father in the army, I inevitably went to a number of schools but always found myself joining the gardening club! Following his military career my dad retrained as a tree surgeon and I would enjoy helping him with gardening jobs – it’s inspired my future career choice. Working with flowers and plants is both relaxing and comforting. It’s great fun, something I enjoy doing as part of a team and I really love the practical elements.”


The positioning and grouping of plants in the ‘Surviving’ section of the garden will show the disorientation, conflicting emotions and mental state of those being supported by Help for Heroes before they enter any recovery programme.


As they progress through their journey to ‘Stability’, the garden will portray a number of horticultural activities undertaken at the four Recovery Centres nationwide with a focus on crop production and horticulture skills.


The third and final section of the garden ‘Support’ will show how planting and landscaping, including a still pool and seating, can create an area promoting recovery and ongoing support. The stage when an individual becomes an active member of their community again, and can make a positive impact in society once more.


The garden will engage all of its visitors’ senses, using relevant sound tracks in each section. White noise will help convey chaos and confusion, natural sounds will give a sense of nature and the outdoors and a symphonic piece of music, composed especially for Help for Heroes, will provide the backdrop to peace, calm and relaxation.