Community

The Serge Hill Project for Gardening and Health was granted planning permission in January 2020. The aim is to develop a community garden on a one-acre site known as The Orchard, at Serge Hill in Hertfordshire, where Tom and his wife Sue Stuart-Smith have lived together since 1987, and where Tom was born. The project draws on Sue’s work as a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author of The Well Gardened Mind, a book that investigates the origins of gardening and its power to transform our lives. This not-for-profit initiative will offer resources to local schools and charities as well as local residents who want to get involved in gardening.

The proposed building in The Orchard has been designed by architect Ben Stuart-Smith, as part of architecture and design collective Okra, and will function as an education and resource centre, and the hope is that it will be complete by late summer 2021. The vision for the garden is diverse, with food production, allotments, and experimental planting for learning. We hope that the allotments will become available to local residents in 2021.

Sunnyside Rural Trust, a Hertfordshire based charity that provides horticultural training for people with learning disabilities and sells plants at Hemel Food Garden in Hemel Hempstead, has also started growing perennial plants in a small nursery on The Orchard site. The plants they grow will be sold to landscape designers and at garden open days. They are also growing a large number of plants for an exhibition garden proposed for the delayed Hampton Court Flower Show. This has been designed by Tom who has been nominated by the RHS as their Iconic Horticultural Hero 2020.

The landscape design studio is also moving from London to Serge Hill, to be closer to the project. Construction of the new studio has started on site and should be complete by spring / summer 2021. This will allow the team to use its design and horticulture experience to curate the garden, develop the project and learn more about plants and gardening. Part of the site will be used to develop a plant library that will provide an extensive educational resource for all.

We envisage the development of the community garden will be a whole team effort, with designers and volunteers coming together to create a space that will help people experience the mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits of gardens and gardening.

We anticipate there should be opportunities for volunteers with some horticultural experience from spring 2021, who will be willing to help out with planting, weeding and keeping things healthy and on track, along with specific projects like the construction of new compost bays. If this is something you would be interested in hearing more about, please send an email to charles@tomstuartsmith.co.uk with a short summary of your horticultural experience and we will keep you informed when suitable opportunities arise.