RHS student’s winning design creates new community wellbeing space in Guildford

Pupils of Kings College, students of the RHS Wisley School of Horticulture and the RHS Communities Outreach team create a garden for the Kings College school, Guildford, Friday July 8, 2022. .RHS / Luke MacGregor

A new wellbeing garden at Kings College Guilford is now open to the public following a design competition won by RHS diploma student Emma Leaper.

Students completing the RHS Diploma in Horticultural Practice course at RHS Garden Wisley were tasked with designing a garden that prioritised wellbeing, helped build community connections and inspired users to take time taking time away from busy lives and transform an existing disused space for the College.

Emma Leaper’s ‘Lifecycle garden’ was chosen by staff and the Eco Group at Kings College as the winning design. Her design incorporates soft, sensory planting with trees to provide shade and plenty of room for people to relax and socialise. The design also makes use of drought-tolerant plants for the exposed site and features such as a long grass meadow and fruit trees in the Wildlife Grove.

It also contains a Growing Lab, with planters for soft fruit and herbs which can be harvested as term begins for use in the school canteen, community fridge and food tech classes. A Sustainability Centre containing composting bays, a tool shed and water butt will also act as a working space for young people to learn about the importance of water and the nutrient cycle in the garden.

Developing a garden in the local community, from their base at RHS Garden Wisley, gives the students real world experience of working to clients specifications within a fixed budget and putting those plans into practise.

Emma Leaper, designer of the winning garden, said: “The Lifecycle Garden is a free-flowing, dynamic space for learning and growing together. Young people from Kings College can use the Growing Lab, visit the Sustainability Centre or relax in the Wildlife Grove. It’s a place to nurture young minds, and support the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of all”.

The school will use the garden for 1:1 sessions, outdoor classes in English, Art, History and Science, as a performance space for Music and Drama and as a hub for their Gardening Club and Eco Group.

Head Teacher of Kings College Guildford, Alastair McKenzie, said: “This is a great project and has created such a wonderful space for students for the years ahead. The garden looks amazing and the students and staff really enjoyed working with the RHS, helping to bring it to life. The nature and sustainability areas will be important learning spaces and the garden is a special place to relax and focus on positive wellbeing.”

The garden will also be used by students at Guildford Grove primary school, the Lighthouse (a specialist centre for deaf children), the Fountain Centre (which supports patients at Royal Surrey Hospital living with cancer and their families) and the Hive community centre.
The RHS Communities team also worked alongside Emma and the organisations that will benefit from the space to involve them in its creation this summer and will continue to provide horticultural support and advice until the garden is established.
Opportunities for the Diploma programme open on 1 December annually. Applicants need an existing Level 2 horticultural qualification and at least six months of practical experience in a professional horticultural environment.