Tunbridge Wells autism charity to unveil sensory garden at Chelsea Flower Show

GREEN HELP: Camellia Taylor with Peter at the Aspens centre in Pembury

LOCAL charity Aspens will be revealing their show garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in hopes of raising awareness around autism and mental health.

Pembury-based Aspens is a social care charity supporting people on the autism spectrum and with learning difficulties. It will be unveiling ‘The Natural Affinity Garden’ at the London show running from May 23-27.

The sensory garden aims to highlight the therapeutic value of nature by engaging the senses in each planting zone, creating a calming space for those with hypersensitivity (sensory avoidant) and stimulating for those with hyposensitivity (sensory seeking).

Nature can help boost mood and gardening can help improve confidence, resilience, and self-esteem, providing people with an opportunity to connect with others.

Seven out of 10 people who are autistic also experience mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, while 35 per cent of people with eating disorders like anorexia, are on the autistic spectrum.

Kent-based garden designer Camellia Taylor has a background in psychology, and having worked with autistic children, understands the positive impact of nature. She has incorporated this into the charity’s garden.

Ms Taylor said: “I have always felt passionate about the benefits of nature on the human condition and working with Aspens on this project has only reinforced this belief.

“Seeing first-hand the impact Aspens horticultural area has  on so many is hugely overwhelming, and The Natural Affinity Garden for Aspens will only add to this positive experience.

“Engaging with our senses can have a huge benefit in any outdoor space and I hope the garden really helps to illustrate this.”

After the show, the garden will be relocated back to the charity’s site in Pembury, where those supported by the charity will be able to maintain the garden and benefit from its therapeutic design.

Aspens Chief Executive Robert Shanahan said: “When the garden is relocated to our site it will provide us with an inclusive and inspiring space and will provide our staff and the wider community with a space where they can relax, recharge and feel safe.”

Tunbridge Wells-based law firm Cripps will be a corporate supporter of The Natural Affinity Garden and will co-host two entertainment events from the garden during show week.

Mike Scott, Senior Partner at Cripps, commented: “We are thrilled to be supporting Aspens at the Chelsea Flower Show.

“We are looking forward to attending the show and helping Aspens sustain the garden to provide long-term benefits for the community.”

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