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Chelsea 2018: Tom Massey’s Lemon Tree Trust Garden

Chelsea 2018: Tom Massey’s Lemon Tree Trust Garden

The Lemon Tree Trust Garden. Designed by: Tom Massey. Sponsored by: The Lemon Tree Trust. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Photo: The RHS


The young garden designer debuts with a garden inspired by a refugee camp


Having cut his teeth on two show gardens at RHS Hampton Court Palace, Pre-Registered SGD Member Tom Massey this year debuts at Chelsea with a design for the Lemon Tree Trust, highlighting how gardening and urban agriculture schemes have brought a wide range of social, health, and environmental benefits to people living in Domiz, a refugee camp in Northern Iraq.

The Lemon Tree Trust has been using gardening and gardening competitions within refugee camps to inspire people to grow their own food there and to demonstrate the potential for large-scale agriculture. Lemon Tree Trust founder Stephanie Hunt says, “One of our central tenets is the importance of building a community of gardeners in Domiz, as well as globally. Displaced by war, gardening gives individuals and families a sense of peace and purpose, allowing them to feel dignity while nurturing a favourite rose bush or adding garden-grown herbs to a dinner that reminds them of home.”

Massey was introduced to the Trust by the RHS, which thought he would be a good fit following his ‘Border Control’ garden for UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, which won Best Conceptual Garden at Hampton Court in 2016. “But unlike ‘Border Control’, which was a conceptual design, the Lemon Tree Trust wanted a real garden that would showcase the beauty and productivity of the gardens in Domiz,” he says.


Tom Massey


His design celebrates the ingenuity and resilience of the refugees, drawing inspiration from the gardens created at Domiz, with input from refugees, and from the work of the Trust, which provides the horticultural knowledge and equipment to facilitate them. He is using materials that can be found at the camp, such as concrete and steel, to create a shelter at the back of the garden, with a façade made from screens inspired by traditional Islamic designs.

An ‘innovation wall’ filled with everyday objects, such as tin cans and plastic bottles, is re-purposed to grow plants – an idea sourced from the refugee gardens of Domiz – while channels radiating from a brimming fountain help to cool the atmosphere and create a sense of well-being.

“The garden is a place of healing, peace and relaxation, but it also has an educational element,” Massey explains. “For example, the fountain and rills represent how grey water can be collected and re-used. They demonstrate the importance of water, not only for plants, but for the people too, where it provides cooling relief from the dry heat of the desert. Lots of refugees have built amazing fountains in their own gardens which inspired my design.”

The planting includes edibles, herbs and fruit trees, including lemons, a pomegranate and fig, which are used in Middle Eastern cooking. Drought-tolerant species that will survive the harsh environment and scented plants, such as the Damask rose, provide additional colour and perfume.


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