Monday, March 9, 2009 - 11:03

Homeless and disadvantaged people have teamed up with Eden Project gardeners to build a huge green wall of plants for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The wall, measuring 65 feet by seven feet, was installed with more than 4,000 young and tender plants as a focal point of the unique show garden The Key at the forthcoming Chelsea Flower Show.

The mass planting at Kernock Park Plants at Pillaton, near Saltash, Cornwall, was collaboration between Eden and volunteers from the Shekinah Mission in Plymouth, Devon. They worked together to pot up a wide range of herbs, vegetables, shrubs and flowers which make up the vertical wall.

One of the planters from Shekinah, Kay McGowan, who has been homeless in the past, said: “It’s been a really good day. I have never done any gardening before apart from cutting the grass but I do like plants. I’m picking up a few of the names.

“It’s been a good laugh and I’m looking forward to seeing the wall when it is complete. It is on a great scale. We will be able to look at it and think ‘we did that!’”

Peter Murphy, who is on a plastering course with Shekinah, said: “It’s a good project to contribute to and I’d love to see it all when it is complete at Chelsea.”

The Key is an ambitious initiative in which Eden and the umbrella organisation Homeless Link, working with the Homes and Communities Agency – the housing and regeneration agency for England, which helped fund the project - is uniting some of the most disadvantaged people in society and, through building and planting, nurturing a sense of growth, hope and long-term change.

Through this joint project, the Homes and Communities Agency wants the public to understand more about Places of Change – its major £80m capital improvement funding programme which seeks to improve services for people who are homeless. It aims to identify, encourage, engage and release their potential to enable them to move on with their lives.

Eden is overseeing the sowing of seeds and planting of bulbs in homeless hostels across the UK in preparation for the showpiece garden.

Outlining The Key, Howard Jones, Eden’s Director of Human Networks, said: “We are involving many people now living in hostels and prisons in providing the plants and the skills to make this unique garden. We are working closely with Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for frontline homelessness charities, who are identifying hostels around the country to grow plants to order.”

He said of the latest mass planting: “It has been a really good collaboration between the Eden horticulturists and people being helped by the charities, some of whom haven’t planted before.”

The planting of the wall and the design of the Key garden is being led by Eden’s Paul Stone, who has a clutch of Chelsea flower show gold medals under his belt. He is working on the design of the garden with the group Architecture sans Frontières.

In all, ten thousand plants will make up a garden which will be as far away from the cute and cottagey as you can get.

Paul said: “The design of The Key will echo the life journeys that many of the participants in the growing and planting are making. The theme of the garden will be that investment in people must be seen as a solution and not a cost. The garden is allegorical. It is about that journey, the highs and lows, and some of the challenges and barriers that are met along the way and how we find our way through them to a more optimistic place.

“The vertical wall is a dramatic part of the ‘Labyrinth’ section of the garden where planting creates the space and structure for the ‘journey’. It is great to see it taking shape thanks to the volunteers. Vertical planting is a really effective way to use space where space is limited and a very sustainable form of gardening.”