A Skincare Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Sets Out to Change Lives
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Hospital, 22-26 May 2018.
A Gold medal-winning garden designer and leading Harley Street skin clinic will create a horticultural and sculptural tribute to our skin at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show that hopes to transform lives.
The ‘Skin Deep’ conceptual show garden comes from a unique collaboration with the renowned Harley Street Skin clinic and pays tribute to our largest organ – our skin, our own unique brand, which signals clues to our genetic heritage, health and age.
The modernist landscape garden designer Robert Barker (40) from Cambridge who has conceived the garden is flying high. Following a career as a struggling singer-songwriter, a visit to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2010 transformed his own life.
In just 6 short years he has worked with Diarmuid Gavin and enjoyed enormous success at numerous RHS landmark events with a Gold-Medal winning show garden at Hampton Court in 2016
The designer, who is known for his powerful messages expressed through sculpture, will use 200 concrete blocks to represent a variety of skin conditions. His aim is to make visitors contemplate their own skin insecurities.
“We’ve used various techniques with the concrete blocks to represent different skin conditions,” explains Barker. “For example, we’ve covered some in acid and added stain marks; some will have deep pores within them, others will have wrinkles.”
The concrete blocks will be offset by Boehmeria platanifolia and Astilboides tabularis, beautiful ferns, grasses and other plants, also chosen to represent an aspect of human skin – its beauty and diversity, and the ailments that befall it. The Skin Deep garden also features a narrow path that cuts through a virtual cityscape of sculpture before arriving at a serene space for contemplation.
“We have been incredibly particular with the plants, choosing ones that illustrate flawed skin. We used Boehmeria platanifolia, which is a type of stinging nettle, because it has a large, incredibly wrinkled leaves and Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White,’ for their spotty appearance. I am also including trees all the way from Germany, because of their peeling bark,” Barker continues
‘Skin Deep’ has been inspired by the work of Harley Street Skin clinic founded by Dr Aamer Khan and Lesley Reynolds – skin and anti-ageing experts. Dr Khan is renowned for his cosmetic artistry and pioneering work with injured servicemen and women, while Lesley, author of the bestselling ‘Look Younger for Longer’, has been a tour de force in the skincare world for decades.
Lesley Reynolds describes the concept of the ‘Skin Deep’ garden: “We asked Robert to capture the intense connection our skin has with our life story and incredibly, he has found a way to translate this into an inspired horticultural and landscaping show garden.”
Robert provides further insight, saying: “For the visitors invited into the garden, there’s a narrow path that zigzags through it so that you come in very close contact with the sculpture and can actually feel the blocks. You walk over water features which are very reflective too, so you will be reminded not only of the key ingredient within skin, but also your own reflection.
“I’ve had relationships with people who have had tiny scars and that little scar carries such a weight with it. When I spoke to Lesley at Harley Street Skin Care, I realised how many people have issues with their skin, and I really wanted to explore that idea through the garden, as the blocks also represent a certain strength that people can have when they come together.”
Lesley Reynolds adds: “We see so many different people at Harley Street with skin problems, ranging from anti-ageing and pigmentation to acne and rosacea. So, with the garden, we wanted to do something about how skin imperfections look and how they affect people.
“The thing I’d like people to take away from the garden is the effect that something on the surface of the skin can have on a person. We treat a lot of soldiers, with the Back On Track charity, who have come back from conflict with horrific injuries. Looking at a scar for example can bring back memories of a traumatic experience everyday. So, by alleviating that scar, by helping it fade, you can change an individual’s personality.”
While challenging society’s skin insecurities might seem like an impossible task for a garden, the Chelsea Flower Show has already altered the life of Barker himself. A visit to the show in 2010 first inspired his love for gardens, transforming him from a struggling musician to an award-winning landscape garden designer. So it is just possible that the ‘Skin Deep’ garden might transform the lives of others!
The ‘Skin Deep’ garden can be seen at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Hospital, 22-26 May 2018. The garden is sponsored by the Skin Deep Group led by Harley Street Skin, along with Vaughan Designs, Chiltern GRC and London Stone.