Portishead lifeboat crew inspire the RNLI garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The inspiration for the stunning RNLI garden, to be unveiled by award-winning designer Chris Beardshaw at next month’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, came in part from moving conversations with volunteers at the Portishead RNLI Lifeboat Station.

Portishead lifeboat crew inspire the RNLI garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The inspiration for the stunning RNLI garden, to be unveiled by award-winning designer Chris Beardshaw at next month’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, came in part from moving conversations with volunteers at Portishead Lifeboat Station.

Chris, a lifelong RNLI supporter, visited Portishead Lifeboat Station last year while looking for garden ideas. Crew members told him what it’s like to volunteer for the charity, how it feels to save a life and what it means to provide a vital service to the local community.

Chris said: “I have been diving and sailing most of my life and the RNLI is a charity that is very close to my heart, but speaking to the Portishead volunteers really made me realize what an incredible job the RNLI is doing performs.

“Much of their work is invisible to most of us and is carried out quietly and humbly by volunteer crews and lifeguards, but the result is amazing – thousands of people are helped each year, families are reunited and many more are helped with safety advice. The Portishead crew brought this to life, laid the foundation for my design and helped me create a garden that I hope will make the RNLI proud.’

He recently returned to Portishead Lifeboat Station to unveil his garden design and talk about what some of the key elements represent.

Portishead RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager Dave Slack said he and other crew members are honored to have inspired Chris’ RHS Chelsea design.

Dave added: “The way Chris interpreted what we told him and found a way to represent the work of the RNLI in his beautiful garden design is truly incredible. The understated style and colors of the garden are just right for the way our volunteers go about their work – we’re very proud of what we do, but we don’t go in your face.

“And the green oak facade at the back of the garden, with its central beacon, represents to me returning to land from the danger of the elements that we cannot control during a rescue. Lifeboats can be miles at sea, but knowing that light will help guide them home during a difficult rescue is a great comfort to both the crew and the people they rescued.’

As well as speaking to RNLI volunteers, Chris turned to the charity’s legacy for inspiration. The materials used to construct the original wooden lifeboats when the RNLI was founded almost 200 years ago are hinted at by large prominent trees, while the oak pavilion features traditional pillars and a carved inscription in the Georgian style popular at the time.

The result is a tranquil and confident garden that inspires curiosity, looks back to look forward and reflects the charity’s sense of permanence, while providing a space to reflect on the many elements of the RNLI’s work.

Hattie Ghaui from Project Giving Back, the unique funding organization providing the generous funding for the RNLI Garden, joined Chris in Portishead to unveil his design.

Hattie said: “It was very humbling to meet Dave and the other volunteers and hear how the garden reflects and represents the spirit and work of the RNLI. The garden will be a huge tribute to them and I can’t wait to see it at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next month.”

This is the first time the RNLI has had a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which takes place from 24th to 28th May. The charity hopes the garden will make a life-saving difference, celebrating both its incredible legacy and the dedication of its volunteers, past, present and future.

For more information, visit: rnli.org/Chelsea

media contacts

  • Contact for more information Charlotte Cranny-Evans, RNLI Media Engagement, 07393 763 780,
    [email protected]
  • For media inquiries regarding Chris Beardshaw please contact Jane Southcott pr,
    [email protected]07787 527430


  1. Chris Beardshaw meets RNLI Portishead Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager Dave Slack. Credit Helen Lazenby/RNLI
  2. Chris Beardshaw’s design for the RNLI Garden. Credit @freehandlines

Video Link here to the video of Chris Beardshaw unveiling his RNLI garden design to Portishead RNLI volunteers. Credit RNLI.

Notes for editors

Return project

Project Giving Back (PGB) is a unique grants program that funds gardens for charity at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. PGB was launched in May 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on UK charity fundraising. It will fund gardens inspired by a range of worthy causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Visit www.givingback.org.uk for more information

Chris Beardshaw

Renowned planter, designer and presenter Chris Beardshaw is a 13-time RHS Gold Medalist who won Best in Show in 2018 for his RHS Chelsea Garden. Its plant-filled Show Gardens are always popular with gardeners, which is reflected in its having won the BBC’s Five Times People’s Choice Award. Chris is involved in a wide range of residential landscaping, large scale public horticulture programs and educational initiatives. His broadcasting career has spanned 25 years and he can currently be heard as a regular panelist on Radio 4’s gardening issue. For more details on all of Chris’ current projects, please visit: www.chrisbeardshaw.com

Important facts about the RNLI

The charity RNLI saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the UK and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and over 240 beach lifeguard units in the UK and Channel Islands. Independent of the Coast Guard and government, the RNLI relies on voluntary donations and bequests to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Press releases, videos and photos are available in the News Center.

Contacting the RNLI – public enquiries

Members of the public can contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.

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