What is a Sanctuary Garden? These are gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that are designed to harness the healing power and serenity of nature. They each combine design innovation – in some surprisingly small spaces – and tradition to form some spectacular real and conceptual gardens.
For 25 years, Fine Cell Work has taught expert needlework skills to men and women in British prisons. They provide highly-skilled, creative, paid work to more than 8000 prisoners to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem. Now, their work will be celebrated with sanctuary garden at RHS Chelsea 2022, entitled The Stitchers' Garden.
The vast majority of the prison stitchers are complete beginners who gradually pick up needlework skills with the support of Fine Cell Work volunteers. After spending time learning these skills, many become highly-skilled stitchers who are entrusted with demanding, high-profile commissions. As well as providing the opportunity to earn money through their involvement in Fine Cell Work, for many inmates stitching offers a great deal more. It is an opportunity to find peace, to focus, to still the internal mental chatter. As one prisoner comments, you can't sew and be angry at the same time.
The garden celebrates the skills that Fine Cell Work teachers: skills that nurture inmates' their self-worth and encourages them to lead independent and crime-free lives upon release.
Visitors will see into the garden through a ‘cell’. This simple structure, made of steel, with contemporary woven willow panels will replicate the dimensions of their prison space. Opposite, a larger pavilion constructed of steel, with more open woven willow panels will echo the form of the cell. It is a metaphor for the space in which the creative exchange between prisoners, designers and Fine Cell Work takes place. Between these two structures will be a pool with fountain jets set in a herbaceous parterre, harmoniously filled with planting combinations in pale yellow, soft pinks and cream.
The garden will feel restful and inspiring, reflective and uplifting, expansive and optimistic, solitary and celebratory, calming but colourful. As one prisoner comments on their needlework skills, you can't sew and be angry at the same time.
The Stitchers' Garden is designed by Frederic Whyte and is being built by Champain Landscapes and Brampton Willows.
Find out more about the work of Fine Cell Work on their website: https://finecellwork.co.uk/