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A garden symbolising racial and climate injustice is coming to the Chelsea Flower Show

It’s inspired by the story of Notting Hill’s Mangrove Nine

Written by
Alim Kheraj

Each year, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show sees garden lovers flock to SW3 to get their annual fix of horticultural goodness. There’s always much chatter about the most spectacular floral displays, but one of the gardens at this year’s show has been designed to spark debate of a different kind: about racial and climate injustice. 

Titled Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know, the garden is inspired by the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of activists who were arrested and persecuted by the police in 1970 following raids on the historic Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill. The subsequent trial saw all nine defendants acquitted, with the judge describing ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan Police. Steve McQueen made a film about it, ‘Mangrove’, which was part of his ‘Small Axe’ anthology series that screened on the BBC in 2020. 

Another inspiration for the garden is the deforestation of mangroves around the world. In its centre will be a four-metre-tall sculpture with nine bare roots, each recognising a Mangrove Nine defendant, surrounded by various lush species, including edible plants like beetroot, peppers, rocket and tomatoes. The crushed concrete path that runs through the garden represents the challenges and threats of racism, poverty and violence in 1970s Notting Hill and today. 

The garden has been created by Grow2Know, a non-profit organisation started after the Grenfell Tower fire that aims to demonstrate the healing and unifying power of gardening. Speaking about the installation, Tayshan Hayden-Smith, founder of Grow2Know, said, ‘Our presence at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a monumental opportunity to promote non-profitable, grassroots community gardening. Touching on topics that hit home hard, Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know will celebrate the culturally rich and diverse community of North Kensington, as well as demonstrating that gardening has the capacity to heal and unify irrespective of culture, race, ethnicity, religion or age. As a young man born and raised in North Kensington, I’m keen to explore and embrace my roots both culturally and historically, inspiring stories and celebrating pivotal milestones in my community.’

When the Chelsea Flower Show is over, the garden will be relocated to a community space in North Kensington, close to the site of the original Mangrove restaurant.

Hands off Mangrove by Grow2Know will be presented at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from May 24-28. Tickets are on sale now

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