A Garden to Change the World

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Like me, you may not associate gardening with the impacts of intensive animal agriculture, so I was intrigued to see there was a show garden at The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show that managed to link the two.

‘Conscious Consumerism’ by garden designer Joseph Gibson, sends a strong message of the impacts of expanding agriculture and intensive factory farming on wildlife and the wider environment. We as consumers are responsible for the choices we make and the ultimate price our planet pays

The perimeter – something contained

Approaching the garden, viewers aren’t entirely sure what to expect but Joseph later told me that was part of the plan!

“I wanted to lure passers-by in, with no preconception on what’s inside. People are curious beings by nature, if you could see the garden without the walls you might just look from afar and miss the experience. The timber structure, which is symbolic of a cattle truck, allows a glimpse of what’s to come as you survey from outside. There’s a feeling of something contained but you have to go in through the entrance to explore further.”

The garden combines a real sense of mystery with a treat of the senses.


The rainforest

This section immediately takes you into a world which resembles my time in Brazil. Above a canopy of huge tropical leaves protect us from the searing hot summer’s day. Orchids, bromeliad were hidden in the thick lush foliage and branches of passion flowers and tendrils of tree beards created an archway. The ground was soft and spongey under foot – there were even sound effects to enhance the feel of a real rainforest.

Joseph explained that he spent time in South America and saw first-hand the impact of deforestation on tribes and communities who rely and respect the flora and fauna around them. He’s been inspired by the traditions of the Aztec, Inca and Pachamama (Mother Nature).


Moving through, the lush rainforest falls away to reveal a far more depressing scene. Only tree stumps remain and there is no cover. The cattle truck walls become more prominent, so there is a feeling of confinement. Muddy puddles form underfoot. An old tire is left, symbolising the carelessness of man and dead foliage litters the floor – it feels like something has trampled through here, devastating everything in its path.

A ‘Warning –Hazard’ sign overhead as we are funnelled into the next zone – much like animals are on their way to slaughter. This is another harsh contrast as we’re enclosed by corrugated iron walls, and penned in by gates. It’s a clinical and harrowing, oppressive environment.

To the left, blood stained factory overalls and rubber boots hang sinisterly. And on the right a bone cutter, this is the stuff of nightmares but also a reality of our relentless appetite to consume cheap, mass produced meat.


Now we’re nearing the end of our journey and entering the ‘final savannah’ it seems. It really is like a desert here, not least because of the scorching temperature (no tree, no shade.) Dusty under-foot, dead branches and even tumble weed scattered about the ground. A dead tree reaches up and a half buried, empty canister with ‘oxygen’ written on the side tells us that time is running out: we can’t carry on this way, there will be nothing left.

Dividing the space is a fence to the left of which a single green shoot emerges through the desolate ground. ‘This is a sign of regeneration and hope’ Joseph says. It’s also only via this route that you can exit the garden. We have to find a better path to consumerism to the one we are on now. The other path is a dead end, literally.

It’s a sobering fact that nearly one fifth of the worlds land is threatened with desertification.

The fast pace of expansion of agriculture and the impact on wildlife and the wider environment is not sustainable. But once we’re aware of the consequences we can all do something. As consumers we’re all responsible for the choices we make.

Gold medallist

I have since been delighted to receive the news that Joseph has won a gold medal! I would like to offer my sincere congratulations on this achievement for providing such an inspiring and eye-opening walk through Conscious Consumerism at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. If you’re there, don’t miss it!

If you’ve been inspired by this garden and the story it tells, why not think of the changes you can make today and everyday to help?

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