RHS Chatsworth’s Mandala Mindfulness Garden

As news broke that this year’s flower shows have been cancelled, I found myself gazing at a pile of dry, leafy debris, cleaned from my hens and chicks, wondering whether making a mandala would sooth my mind. It wasn’t the best of ingredients, being a uniformly dull beige.

Overhead view of hens and chicks mandala
Mandala made from hens and chicks in contrasting colours

My thoughts turned to last year’s RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. The Mandala Mindfulness Garden had been designed as a quiet space to allow an urban school to provide wellbeing sessions for small groups and in one to ones. A sense of rest (from the seating areas) and calm contemplation (the mandalas), was balanced by flow (the airy planting and the oval path).

Curved dry stone wall bench with oak seat
Curved dry stone wall bench with oak seat

In support of the more general aim, to introduce more children to gardening, the garden was relocated to a school after the show.

Mindfulness garden with fence, flowers, seating and mandala
Cedar bench with reclaimed oak top and a pebble mandala

The garden takes its name from two permanent mandalas in the seating areas, one made from pebbles, the other sempervivums, both placed where people can sit and contemplate them.

Temporary mandalas included a pine cone mandala round the base of a tree and space was provided for kids to make mandalas from pebbles, stones, shells, etc.

Gappy shou sugi ban fence
Gappy shou sugi ban fence

I loved the shou sugi ban (carbonised timber) fence along two sides of the garden and spent some time inspecting it, front and back. Its spiky, gappy, meandering outline were a far cry from the boxed lines of a standard fence, each plank a painting of pattern and texture.

The garden was designed to be low maintenance, as far as flower gardens go, with slender borders, naturalistic planting and uncut grass for the feet, so no need to mow. Leafy shade will eventually be provided by three multi-stemmed silver birch trees.

Some of the materials used in the garden were reclaimed, such as the oak seating surround. Triangular cushions scattered around the mandala making area had been made from recycled sailcloth.

Oval path with a bench at each end and a mandala making area in the middle
Daisy turf with sailcloth scatter cushions and a mandala making table

There were some signs of the plants flowering a little behind where the designers might have have hoped – the Verbascum, Achillea, Crocosmia, Veronicastrum and tall Allium, for example. It is so hard to work with the vagaries of our weather and get everything at the peak of flower for one specific week. Let’s hope this meant the garden was still looking lovely when relocated to its new home.

Highlights from the official plant list

Flowering plants:
Alchemilla mollis
Aqueligia vulgaris ‘Alba’
Campanula lactiflora ‘Alba’
Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’
Campanula persicifolia
Echium pininana
Erigeron karvinskianus
Geranium ‘Orion’
Ipomea ‘Star of Yalta’
Knautia macedonica
Nepeta racemosa ‘Walter’s Low’
Oenothera odorata ‘Sulphurea’
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’
Scabiosa columbaria
Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’
Stipa gigantica
Verbascum blattaria albiflorum
Veronicastrum virg. ‘Lavendelturm’

Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii (multi-stemmed silver birch)

Daisy turf
Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
Stipa gigantica

Oval path allows a contemplative walk around the garden
An oval path, laid with self-binding gravel, for a contemplative stroll

Designed by: HeldQuin Design Partnership
Built by: Patios, Pots & Pergolas
Supported by: Mindfulness In Schools Project (MiSP) who champion mental health and wellbeing. They’re currently hosting daily Sit Together sessions online.

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' in the Mandala Mindfulness Garden
Purple flowers included Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’
Community links

I follow several people on WordPress who sometimes share mandalas made from flowers, including Wild Daffodil.

I’m linking to HeyJude’s 2020 Photo Challenge as her assignment this week is:

Try to mix your texture with other colours and patterns.

Most gardens overspill with contrasts – this one has the mandalas, the fence, the flooring material and the plants. I enjoy taking part in community challenges and am particularly grateful to their hosts just now.

39 Replies to “RHS Chatsworth’s Mandala Mindfulness Garden”

    1. I suppose they are designed so that there’s no end to looking. Some wallpaper patterns have the same effect on me, especially the older, busier styles we no longer see.

      1. Indeed. After all that dreadful winter weather and storm after storm I was looking forward to visiting the spring gardens in this lovely sunshine ☀

  1. Big mandalas often appear on the beaches, like bit ornate crop circles. If I put that much work into something like that, I would not want the tide to take it away!

  2. This is such an interesting place! My eye went right to that fence. I love the combination of the oak curve, the stones, and that fence. I think I’d miss the mandalas entirely and just watch the fence. There isn’t anything in this garden that doesn’t invite slow breathing. Quite wonderful, especially for this particular now.

    1. This particular now demanded it. I like the way the fence builder played with ideas of enclosure and openness, a safe space being one we can partially see out of and into.

  3. There was a Spring Mediterranean Garden Fair scheduled for last weekend, Susan. We don’t have many show gardens or a National Trust here so it was a bit of a disappointment, but needs must 😦 😦 I love Chatsworth!

    1. I love it too. It shows how much the shows are something to lift our spirits and look forward to, if we were in any doubts.

      I’ve been thinking about the plants mid-way through being forced into flower by exhibitors and what will happen to those. Far better to cancel well ahead of time, though taking the decision must have been a wrench even when the organisers had no choice.

  4. The carbonized timber is my favorite. It reminds me of some photos I’ve taken recently of prairies after prescribed burns. The new spring flowers against the burned woody growth are so pleasing.

  5. I never knew that is what they are called. They are such lovely creations, almost inspired to have a go myself. Maybe I will . . . .

    1. Because we have to concentrate and place things just so, they are supposed to be very relaxing to make. I haven’t tried it myself, other than with daisies on the school field, but back then we all did that, didn’t we, given daisies and a field!

      1. I did have to place stones to create the walls of my Mum’s pond, and yes it was very relaxing for those reasons. Did feel it afterwards though as it was at least a ton of stone I was moving very carefully!

        1. I’ll bet! Now that’s a home-based exercise I haven’t seen listed – building and unbuilding rock circles, assuming you have the stone!

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