The garden celebrates the life-changing impact listening can have by taking visitors on a symbolic journey from the hugely challenging situations many people find themselves in when they reach out to Samaritans, to the comforting support of speaking to a volunteer. In 2023, Samaritans marks its 70th anniversary of being there for people who desperately need someone. Designer Darren Hawkes is himself a trained Samaritans listening volunteer.
The garden has two objectives, firstly, to create a safe space, one where people can connect, talk openly, and be heard. Secondly, the garden will depict that while the path to hope can seem full of obstacles, there is support out there and it is always possible for things to change.
The garden should feel real and raw. At one end, huge curtains of reinforced concrete are supported by thin cables, hovering above the delicate foliage of the plants below. Towering above this are giant Aralia chapaensis, spiky and otherworldly. On the ground a chasm opens to a well where we hear but cannot see water passing beneath. Beyond this the garden broadens into a sanctuary where the path trodden can be viewed objectively and some of the obstacles that seemed so overwhelming now appear exquisitely crafted, even beautiful.
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Samaritans works to make sure there's always someone there for anyone who needs someone. Samaritans volunteers spend over one million hours listening to people who are finding life difficult and are available 24/7, 365 days a year, for free. In 2023, the charity celebrates its 70th anniversary.
An edited version of the garden toured various festivals during the summer following RHS Chelsea. Elements of the garden will help create permanent gardens at Samaritans branches in Taunton, Truro and Plymouth, and plants and other elements will be used at several other Samaritans sites across the UK.
Head to the link below to find out more about the garden and the people involved in its creation and legacy.