In July 2011, Hillview Garden Store CEO and industry stalwart, Boyd Douglas-Davies announced the inaugural Garden Re-Leaf Day at the Garden Retail Awards in London. Now in its eighth year, Garden Re-Leaf Day is the biggest charity fundraiser in the garden industry’s calendar and has raised over £600,000, including over £70,000 in 2018 alone.
Positioned as the garden industry’s answer to Comic Relief and Sports Relief, the aim of Garden Re-Leaf Day was to celebrate the start of the garden year with fundraising events to raise money for Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children in hospices through the creation of magical gardens.
For the garden industry, the day creates valuable team building opportunities and brings more shoppers into garden centres earlier to extend the peak spring season. Garden centre managers, staff and other industry professionals tirelessly set up fun and exciting ways to not only raise money for Greenfingers, but also to promote gardening as an enjoyable pastime.
But where do these vital funds go? Most will already be aware that the money raised is used to build Greenfingers hospice gardens which enable children and their families to enjoy special time together outside enjoying the therapeutic benefits of nature, and away from the bedside.
Greenfingers work exclusively with each hospice to come up with a unique design that suits the needs of the children and families they care for. Each garden is created with top industry designers and landscapers, as well as help from the local community, volunteers and gardening clubs.
In total, 55 Greenfingers gardens have been built since the charity’s creation in 1998 with many being funded by monies from Garden Re-Leaf Day. The inaugural Garden Re-Leaf Day in 2012 raised more than £55,000 for Greenfingers, helping a specially designed, family garden to be built at both Robin House Children’s Hospice in West Dunbartonshire, and Donna Louise Children’s Hospice in Stoke-on-Trent.
2019 is a big year for Greenfingers gardens, with a further four set to be completed. The Nest and Rest Garden at Grace House, Sunderland, is set to be made a reality under the expert eye of Sean Murray, 2015 winner of the BBC's Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. Designed to attract wildlife, this garden will utilise interactive water features, sensitive planting and sheltered areas to provide families with an invaluable outside space for respite and relaxation, as well as stimulating features that can be used for therapies and reflection.
Over at Claire House Children’s Hospice on the Wirral, Carolyn Willetts of CW Studios, will be transforming the outdoor space into a Garden of Colour. Featuring a Creation Station, Rainbow Meadow, A Quiet Place and sensory Falling Leaves, this garden will be a feast for the senses year-round.
Little Harbour Children’s Hospice in St Austell is set to be transformed by local landscape architect and designer, Darren Hawkes. Darren takes his inspiration from the landscape that surrounds him, and his designs have a harmonious feel to them. He says "I love the relationship between plants and hard materials. The opportunity to highlight shapes both in foliage and form as well as in colour is one that I relish". His plans for the Little Harbour garden include all-weather facilities, including a covered hide out festooned with coloured glass panels.
At Richard House Hospice in London, Greenfingers is working with garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin from Fisher Tomlin & Bowyer to create a new special sensory garden. The brief is to 'create a sensory garden which takes families on a journey through the woodland area, starting with a colourful archway and then connecting with different sensory elements of the garden.' It also all needs to be wheelchair accessible.
Greenfingers Director of Fundraising and Communications, Linda Petrons said: “Garden Re-Leaf Day has resulted in life-limited children and families who spend time in hospices being able to enjoy precious time together in a Greenfingers garden. It’s really easy to take part, you can sign up and participate in one of this year's organised initiatives such as the Garden Re-Leaf Walk and Cycle Challenge. Why not organise your own event, and register it so that it can be included in all the media briefings that raise awareness of the cause?”
You can sign up to take part in 2019 Garden Re-Leaf Day events (March 22nd) or register your own by visiting the Greenfingers Charity website www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/gardenreleaf
If you want to find out more about how to get involved in Greenfingers Garden Re-Leaf Day 2019, whether by putting on events in your garden centre, through sponsored solo activities or simply by donating - contact the Greenfingers office on 01494 674749 or email Linda@greenfngerscharity.org.uk.