Environment

Floella Benjamin scores gold in Chelsea with planet-saving garden

The former kids' TV presenter teamed up with Birmingham City Council to push the public into taking action on climate change

Broadcaster, charity worker and politician Baroness Floella Benjamin was the talk of Chelsea Flower Show this week after she revealed her climate crisis-inspired garden – and won a gold medal for it.

In partnership with Birmingham City Council, Benjamin helped design a garden with one key message: we all need to do our bit to reverse climate change chaos, now.

The Royal Horticulture Society ambassador told the Big Issue: “I didn’t want to just point at climate change to say ‘this is bad’ – I wanted it to make people think about what they personally were going to do.

“Let’s start inventing our way out of climate change.”

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At the centre of the display is a three meter-tall head made out of over 3,000 tubes; it can be seen drinking out of a disposable cup using a plastic straw.

Water is brought up through the straw then recycling through a canal network, with those pathways lined by low-allergen flora which removes toxins from the environment.

A miniature road made from recycled tyres runs through the centre of the display to represent the impact transport has on air pollution in towns and cities – and a large foot sculpture hangs above the garden to represent our carbon footprints.

Benjamin, who has been attending Chelsea Flower Show for more than 30 years, said: “The most important thing to remember is our children. It’s not fair how little we’re doing for them.

“There are big things that can be done, like the air pollution buses brought in Southampton, but there are little things to be done too, like turning off the tap when brushing your teeth to save water. Or have a compost heap for all your food waste, things like that. It makes you feel good to to know that you’re doing your bit.”

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The politician said the response has been “great” and that she has been overwhelmed by the positive response from the public.

“It was sensational,” she said. “The garden has galvanised people. They left saying ‘I’m going to go home and take action’.

“It’s like an army of people going to save our planet and do what they can. It was a lovely feeling to have motivated others. That’s just what the garden was to do.”

This wasn’t the first time Benjamin and Birmingham City Council found success together. They won a gold medal last year for a garden inspired by 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving in Britain from the Caribbean.

Benjamin will be shining a light on the stories, experiences and struggles of the Windrush Generation when she takes over the Big Issue as guest editor next month.

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