“Donkey garden” bags silver award at Chelsea Flower Show

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Joanna Lumley with Harley at The Donkey Sanctuary's ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London.
Joanna Lumley with Harley at The Donkey Sanctuary’s ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. © RHS / Luke MacGregor

An equine-themed garden has won a silver award at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London.

International animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary won the award in the Artisan Garden category for its ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden, which is designed to showcase the charity’s international work. 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.

The award is particularly special as this year marks the charity’s 50th anniversary.

“We are thrilled to win silver at Chelsea; this garden demonstrates how with hard work, compassion, creativity and dedication our big ideas can achieve great things,” said The Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker. “Most importantly, the garden’s serious message – highlighting the crucial work that donkeys do to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities – has been taken to a wide and diverse audience at Chelsea.

Joanna Lumley with Skooby after The Donkey Sanctuary’s ‘Donkeys Matter’ garden won a silver award at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. © RHS / Luke MacGregor

“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.”

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.

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.

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

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 garden was designed by Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams and built by Frogheath Landscapes. The plants were grown by How Green Nursery.

The Donkeys Matter garden can be seen on Serpentine Walk, site number 564, until the show closes on May 25. It will then be brought back to the charity’s international headquarters in Devon where supporters and visitors can enjoy the garden for years to come.

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