Flower power: Donkeys steal show at Chelsea

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Harley and Skooby in the ‘Why Donkeys Matter’ garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Harley and Skooby in the ‘Why Donkeys Matter’ garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Two rehomed donkeys are the centerpiece of a display at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, demonstrating ‘Why Donkeys Matter’ and highlighting the international work of The Donkey Sanctuary.

Travelling from their home at Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs, Skooby and Harley stood calmly in the Artisan Garden, showcasing The Donkey Sanctuary in its 50th anniversary year. Using water as its central theme, the garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world.

A key garden design feature is a path traversing from bottom left to top right representing the many journeys donkeys carry out on behalf of communities to support their livelihoods. The garden also includes a shelter and a well with a dripping bucket.

The garden features donkey ‘poo’ and donkey hoof prints – supporting the garden’s narrative that a donkey has gone out to work with the community it supports.

Harley and Skooby in the ‘Why Donkeys Matter’ garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, with Mark Kerr, Donkey Welfare Adviser, and Tom Davies, Guardian owner.
Harley and Skooby in the ‘Why Donkeys Matter’ garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, with Mark Kerr, Donkey Welfare Adviser, and Tom Davies, Guardian owner. © The Donkey Sanctuary

The planting of the ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden suggests the dry Mediterranean climate, including Mediterranean Sea Holly (Eryngium bourgatii), Iris ‘Langport Wren’ and Lavender ‘Hidcote’ (Lavandula angustifolia). The colour palette is claret, purple and silver, with bright, vibrant flowers bringing beauty and colour to the garden’s harsh surroundings. The trees in the space are Pine ‘Glauca’ (Pinus parviflora) and Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). The plants were grown by How Green Nursery, and the garden was built by Frogheath Landscapes.

Mike Baker, CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “We are thrilled to unveil our Donkeys Matter garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Its central theme of water throws a spotlight on the hugely important work that donkeys do to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

“Not only does the garden showcase The Donkey Sanctuary’s international work, but it’s also the perfect way to celebrate half a century of helping donkeys. It’s been made possible by the hard work and dedication of our staff, designers and contractors – not to mention the generosity of a long-term supporter – and I hope everyone enjoys exploring it.”

A donkey at work with their owner in Namibia.
A donkey at work with their owner in Namibia. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Garden designers Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams say: “We are thrilled that the design on paper has now come to life. While the build was complex and hard work, the garden looks as though it’s always been there and we are very pleased with all the enthusiastic comments we’ve had.”

Skooby, a 14-year-old skewbald gelding, and Harley, a 17-year-old black gelding, are owned by The Donkey Sanctuary, but are under the care of Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs as part of The Donkey Sanctuary’s Rehoming Scheme. Both are used to busy environments and meeting members of the public. They were accompanied to the show by Mark Kerr, Donkey Welfare Adviser, and Tom Davies, Guardian owner.

In places such as Namibia, Lamu, Somaliland, and Ethiopia, donkeys are used to collect water for entire communities. A donkey will often collect 40 to 60 litres of water at one time. The simple act of a donkey carrying water reduces the time required to access it, freeing children to get an education and women to be economically active.

 

 

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