RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden of hope for mothers to raise awareness of Covid’s devastating impact on perinatal mental health

  • The Mothers for Mothers Garden: “This too shall pass” designed by Pollyanna Wilkinson for Mothers for Mothers charity in the new show garden category ‘All About Plants’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022.
  • Design and planting to echo the road to recovery for mothers experiencingmental health  
  • Covid restrictions have had a drastic impact on pregnant women, birthing people and new parents with partners barred from appointments, anxiety in the workplace, isolation due to a lack of family/peer contact, changes in antenatal care and fewer face-to-face appointments.
  • Planting from the garden will be relocated to Hartcliffe City Farm in Bristol after the show, close to Mothers for Mothers’ base

The Mothers for Mothers Garden, for the namesake Bristol-based charity, is a symbolic plant-filled garden showing the mental health journey mothers take in pregnancy and early parenthood. It will raise awareness of perinatalmental illness, and the added pressures of Covid, at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2022.

 The garden will feature a cloister of bronze-toned walls and archways to represent how long days at home with a baby can feel either like a sanctuary or a cage.

A fractured pathway through the garden surrounded first by muted, restrained planting will gradually transition to a joyful, feminine palette depicting the road to recovery, supported along the way by other mothers with a similar lived experience. True to this new show garden category, 78% of the garden will be plants – showing the impact a small space can have (6x8m).

Designer Pollyanna Wilkinson, a former mental health counsellor and mother of two young children, said: “The expression ‘this too shall pass’ is a mantra passed between women navigating motherhood and the mental healthchallenges that often come with it. The garden is based on the idea of transition – from despair to hope.”

The global pandemic and associated restrictions have had a devasting impact on pregnant women, those giving birth and new mums. Seven in every ten womenwho were pregnant or who had given birth during COVID said they had increased stress and struggled with the ability to cope with pregnancy or baby. 70% of new parents said the lockdown was negatively affecting their baby, and only a third said they were confident in being able to access mental healthsupport.

The garden is funded by the Project Giving Back scheme and supports the vital work of the Bristol charity Mothers for Mothers set up 40 years ago to help mums survive perinatal illness by offering peer support, therapies and counselling, as well as providing assistance for dads and partners.

Maria Viner, the charity’s CEO, said: “The theme of our garden is hope and reassurance. We would like visitors to walk away seeing that it’s possible to find your way back to yourself. For women who are struggling with their mental healthand emotional wellbeing during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby there is support and understanding available. There are people who have lived through this experience and recovered who have been trained to support you and will walk alongside you on your journey to recovery. With the right help and support you will get better.

“For others we hope that the message of hope will translate across whatever their own personal circumstances may be – that if you can find the courage to reach out there are often others who understand and who have walked the same path who can offer companionship, support and compassion without judgment, until you too feel more hopeful about your future.”

During the show, Mothers for Mothers plans to host campaign and fundraising events supported by CBRE and after the RHS Chelsea Flower Show plants from the garden will be relocated to Hartcliffe City Farm close to the charity’s Bristol base.

In terms of planting, the exuberant pink and apricot ruffled Iris ‘Wondrous’ will denote the colour returning to life; apricot Rosa ‘The Lark Ascending’ will provide a feminine and informal feel; tangerine tones of Verbascum‘Clementine’ will denote joy, and the pure blue hues of Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’ will conversely symbolise low mood.


For further information on the garden contact Pollyanna Wilkinson on polly@pollyannawilkinson.com 07534 506604 or Emma Mason emma@emmamasonpr.co.uk 07762 117433. For further information on Mothers for Mothers contact Maria.viner@mothersformothers.co.uk  07796 402667

1 The Fawcett Society

Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design: After a decade working in London in legal marketing, Polly retrained as a garden designer at the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden before setting up her namesake studio, based in Surrey.   She later studied Horticulture at Merrist Wood.  Prior to her career in Garden Design, Polly volunteered as a counsellor for several years, working in a variety of settings from schools, to bereavement charities and maternal mentalhealth clinics.  As both a mother and qualified counsellor, the Mothers for Mothers garden holds very significant meaning to her. Polly has previously created two other show gardens, both at Hampton Court Flower Show. In 2018 she earned a Silver Gilt for her garden focusing on the mental health impacts of social media (A very modern problem) and in 2019 she created a garden focusing on nature crafts, earning a Silver medal and People’s choice award. Polly’s design style is a mix of elegance and practicality. She works on all manner of gardens – from country estates to roof terraces across London and the South West.

Mothers for Mothers: Since 1981 Mothers for Mothers has supported families affected by maternal mental illness and emotional wellbeing needs across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset and received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in their 40th year. They offer support to women and their families during pregnancy and until their youngest child attends school, from illness to wellness, through support services which include: Reach helpline/support calls, Home Visiting, Counselling, Antenatal wellbeing in pregnancy group and Peer Support Groups with a play support worker. The services are designed and delivered by women with lived experience of maternal mental illness.  Mothers for Mothers aim to achieve the following outcomes for the women and families they work with:

  • Improved confidence, resilience and relationships with children and family, leading to faster recovery.
  • Improving children’s emotional development by supporting mothers to be sensitive and responsive in their relationships with their children.
  • Reduced social isolation and improved social and support networks.
  • More awareness of maternalmental Health and the support available.
  • Improved care and services for maternalmental illness.