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Chris Beardshaw creates the RNLI Garden to embody the spirit and intent of this lifesaving charity

Thirteen times RHS Gold Medal winning garden designer and plantsman, Chris Beardshaw, returns to RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year as part of the new Project Giving Back initiative, with a Garden for one of the nation’s most well-respected charities, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, (RNLI).

Chris Beardshaw, who is a lifelong supporter of the charity, has avoided a cliched maritime landscape and instead designed the RNLI Garden as a celebration of this multi-faceted Institution, which has been saving lives at sea for almost 200 years.

The RNLI was founded by Sir William Hillary in 1824 and Chris conceived the design as a subtle marriage between historic influence and contemporary design cues, reflecting the forward-looking organisation that is the RNLI today.

Chris has drawn inspiration from a broad palette, with the specific intention of creating a place of emotional quiet, while displaying an understated confidence that captures a reassuring resilience and resoluteness, which aims to embody the spirit and intent of the RNLI.

Within the design tapestry are woven a multitude of narrative threads that hint at, amongst other elements, Georgian neoclassical styling from the time of the RNLI’s establishment; materials – living and manufactured – used in early lifeboat construction; geological strata reminiscent of the coastal platforms of this island nation; sinuous lines, traced from bow waves of modern lifeboats and subtle lantern lighting as a reminder of the warmth of a lifeboat homecoming.

Commenting Chris said: “We are extremely proud to have been invited to be part of the launch of Project Giving Back at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022. In addition, being asked to create a garden for the RNLI is a huge honour. As someone who has dived and sailed for much of my life, the RNLI is a charity very dear to me and this is a fantastic opportunity to provide a platform from which to highlight the importance and depth of their work.”

Jayne George, RNLI Fundraising, Marketing and Media Director, said: “It has been a privilege to see Chris’s design come to life and we are excited to welcome RHS Chelsea visitors to the garden this week. This is such a wonderful opportunity for us to raise awareness of our lifesaving charity while also highlighting the RNLI’s rich heritage and the incredible work of our dedicated volunteers.

“We are so grateful to Project Giving Back for funding our RNLI Garden and helping us inspire a new generation of lifesavers. We hope it will also encourage gardeners everywhere to host a fundraising garden party or other event for the RNLI as part of our forthcoming *RNLI Gardens campaign.”

Richly Planted Borders

As with all Chris’ Gardens the plants play a pivotal role.  Working primarily with Kelways Plants, Chris has created generously deep borders that run the length of the garden and play host to a rich tapestry of herbaceous perennials.

His plant choices celebrate all the joy and promise of spring with plants included for their statuesque presence as much as for their diminutive size, and for their emergent foliage and hints of future reward with the aim of creating a bountiful yet perfectly natural performance. 

Green, in all its hues, creates a vibrancy throughout the garden which is punctuated by the delicate blooms of whites, blues and purples, some carried at lofty heights and some carpeting the edges of the pitcher path.  It is enveloping, calming and detailed but deliberately reserved to echo the quiet confidence of the RNLI crew at work.

Plant highlights include:  Melianthus major, Euphorbia mellifera, Rheum, Cynara and Eremurus at height; Matteuccia struthiopteris, Hosta sieboldiana elegans, Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) and the seldom seen Disporum longistylum ‘Night Heron’ in the shade; Nepeta Purssian Blue, Erigeron annuus, Phlox ‘Bill Baker’ and Baptisia ’Blueberry Sundae’ in the sun. Full plant list can be found at RNLI.org/Chelsea.


The RNLI Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw RHS Chelsea 2022