Donated hospital plants blooming three years after cancelled Chelsea Flower Show

Monday 24th April 2023

Back at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Royal Horticultural Society had to postpone the Chelsea Flower Show, for only the second time in its history. It was also the year that we were all geared up to have our very first show garden…

Landscape and garden designer, Tom Massey, who was designing our show garden in partnership with Yeo Valley Organic’s Head Gardener, Sarah Mead, leapt into action to make sure that two thousand shrubs, plants and flowers destined for the show found homes. It was quite a task in the midst of a pandemic!

Commerotative plaque
Commemorative plaque reads ‘Rest a while and enjoy this space. Plants donated by Yeo Valley Organic’

At the time Tom said: “We wanted to take a more proactive approach and gift the plants to a good cause as a show of support for the NHS. We hope that the plants will brighten up the hospital grounds and provide a small boost to help NHS staff and patients through these incredibly trying times.”

Now, with the gardening world’s most prestigious annual event back, we were delighted to hear from St George’s Hospital’s Head Gardener, John Greco, to tell us how our donated plants from the cancelled show in 2020 were getting on.

Many of our peak-condition perennials, annals and grasses were planted by Tom, hospital volunteers and our garden team at five hospitals across London and in Plymouth. At St George’s Hospital, London, Tom worked with John to display vibrant deep-blue alkanet, violet-blue and creamy white camassias, deep-red Plume thistles and mauve-pink Mediterranean valerian across the grounds.

An eye-catching display of plants at St George’s Hospital, London

We caught up with John to hear how the garden is still flourishing: “It was a very organic natural planting palette. I imagine to represent the untouched landscape of a meadow or field at Yeo Valley, and the main bed that received the plants was made to look like that as well.

“It has now naturalised. With valerian, verbascum and angelica seedlings spreading slowly from one side of the garden to the other each year. Large flowering oxalis still come up every year, showing just how some plants that are perceived as weeds can be a part of your garden. Including wildflowers such as ammi, cow parsley, silene diocia and borage officinalis, which all help native insects and bees.”

Emma Long, Partnerships Officer at St George’s Hospital Charity said: “It’s been great hearing from John about how the donated plants from the garden have really embedded themselves into our surroundings. They’ve made the space really natural and welcoming for thousands of patients and visitors to enjoy. And of course it’s great for our environment.” 

Comments on “Donated hospital plants blooming three years after cancelled Chelsea Flower Show”

  • It was interesting to learn what had happened to the plants that year, and also ,the names and how and where they were used. I am widowed, and I’m afraid, not making very good choices of which plants to use, so your article has really helped. Thank you.

    MV Fenton on 10th May 2023 at 8:14 am

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