The Doorstep Library Garden: Words Take You Places at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

28th April 2023

The Doorstep Library Garden: Words Take You Places at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

The magic of reading and importance of rainforests are the themes at the heart of this balcony garden in support of children’s literacy charity Doorstep Library, brought to life by a creative collaboration between designers, landscapers, artisans and passionate book experts.

Ferns and delicate plants of temperate rainforests surround a dreamy window seat – an ideal spot for a parent and child to snuggle up and read together. Tropical rainforest plants peep through the layers of calm green, as if the whole scene had leapt from the imagination of our readers, whose rainforest book has been left behind on the window seat. As dusk falls gentle lighting illuminates the scene, highlighting books, maps and translucent glass shelves.


Children’s literacy is central to their chances in life. 1 in 5 children (age 5-8) in England do not own a book1, and 1 in 4 leave primary school still unable to read properly2. Doorstep Library makes a difference to children and families from disadvantaged areas through simple, effective action: trained reading volunteers bring the joy of reading directly into the homes of children who need support from the early years to age 11, bringing books, reading them stories, and enabling them to feel the achievement of learning to read themselves. Volunteers transform the lives of families and children far beyond the point where they pack up their bag of books and step out of a Doorstep Library family’s home, or wave goodbye over the computer screen, for the last time.


Reading helps children – and all of us – to love the natural world, travelling through words and imagination into intricate ecosystems which may be far from where we live, but which are influenced by the actions of us all. Many tropical rainforest species used in UK gardens are in decline3 and with them the flora and fauna of those regions. This garden showcases the beauty of timber grown and sourced in the UK. In the spirit of taking simple actions which make a difference, our Doorstep Library Garden website is a resource enabling gardeners to make informed choices about sustainably sourced timbers with a low carbon footprint for their own gardens. We list timbers grown in the UK and Europe which are suitable for long-lasting outdoor use, provide information about certification by the FSC and PEFC, and about using reclaimed timber which reduces the need for new trees to be felled.


The garden window seat will be repurposed after the Show and live on at the Max Roach Centre4 in Brixton. Children can curl up on the seat, read the selection of nature books accompanying it, and enjoy a new rainforest mural commissioned for the space, telling the story of the garden.

  • Gini Denison-Pender of Beautiful Wild created the original concept and the garden design, choosing Doorstep Library as the ideal charity partner and building the collective ethos of the project. The scheme of a window seat immersed in rainforest greens and surrounded by books grew from the idea that for future generations of children to protect the natural world they should see it as a place of wonder: and reading is at the very heart of that.
  • Anna Garner of The Garnered is the link between the garden and many of our artistic contributors, working with them to curate a simple yet harmonious The magic of this collaboration arises from its unity of purpose, directing different skills and talents towards one common goal.
  • Philippa Craddock is creating a beautifully textured planting scheme, filling the space with shades of green and a sense of immersion and calmness.
  • The complex structural elements are designed by Carl Chaney and James Gleghorn of Greenscape Gardens, using their depth of skill in construction design and landscaping to make the whole structure stand lightly within the space, meeting the strict technical requirements of the balcony gardens.
  • Timbers from a pair of Cedars of Lebanon, 160 and 400 years old, create the panelled backdrop and orangery style enclosures, supplied by and processed in their own west country sawmill by specialists in sustainably sourced woods, Reclaimed Design. Translucent recycled glass shelves created with meticulous craftsmanship by glassblower Michael Ruh will float within the narrow bookcases flanking the doorway, illuminated by a lighting scheme created by Neil Parslow designed to entice the visitor and highlight the form and texture of the plants. Neil also designed the fittings, which are supplied by Light Visuals, suppliers of garden lighting for bespoke outdoor schemes
  • The talented young textile designer Ellen Mae Williams creates the mood of the window seat with sprays of colour from plant based dyes over a linen fabric, working in partnership with specialist upholsterer Rachael South who will give this seat a cloud-like feel with handstitched upholstery and a filling of pure wool from the sheep of Romney Marsh5.
  • Giles Deacon, the renowned couture designer, adds a touch of magic with depictions of rainforest maps on either side of the door – a chance to take in the artistry of his illustrations close up, adding another layer to the rainforest theme.
  • Ultimate Library direct their extensive knowledge of the world of books to the curation of an exciting selection focused on children’s authors writing about the natural world. They have invited several authors to attend the garden during Show week to answer questions about their work and talk about inspirational nature writing for children.

The focus on Doorstep Library and rainforest conservation gathers these many parts into a harmonious whole, built with a light tread upon the earth. We hope this garden sparks interest in the work of Doorstep Library, enabling them to help more children. Our Doorstep Library Garden website is a resource to help gardeners build their own gardens and outdoor furniture using timbers sourced in a sustainable way. It also has information on all our contributors. We would love to think that plant filled nooks might spring up in corners of gardens, where children can drift through the pages of books to anywhere in the world.

– ENDS –

Download The Doorstep Library Garden: Words Take You Places Press Release


Main Contact:                               Gini Denison-Pender 07957 174 364                                         

The Doorstep Library Garden website:

The website contains information on the garden, charity, full information on contributors, relocation, and timber resources and will be updated regularly as we approach the start of the Show. Hi-res photos will become available during the build week and Show week.


  1. 1 in 5 children (age 5 – 8) in England do not own a book1: source National Literacy Trust Report 1 Sept 2022. The National Literacy Trust website says:

Lacking vital literacy skills holds a person back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and as a parent they won’t be able to support their own child’s learning. This intergenerational cycle makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult.

People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet. Low levels of literacy undermine the UK’s economic competitiveness, costing the taxpayer £2.5 billion every year (KPMG, 2009). A third of businesses are not satisfied with young people’s literacy skills when they enter the workforce and a similar number have organised remedial training for young recruits to improve their basic skills, including literacy and communication.

  1. 1 in 4 children leave primary school still unable to read: source Fair Education Alliance

Report Card 2014 – research sponsored by UBS

  1. Some examples of rainforest genera in decline including species used in UK gardens: source

International Union for the Conservation of Nature :

  1. Balau – 14 species on the list (of which many are used for timber): 3 species Critically Endangered; 2 species Endangered; 9 species Vulnerable or Near Threatened and Decreasing
  2. Meranti – 84 species on the list (of which many are used for timber): 18 species Critically Endangered; 15 Endangered; 36 Vulnerable or Near Threatened, of which 33 are Decreasing; 15 Least Concern, of which 13 Decreasing
  3. Iroko – 2 species listed: Milia regia Vulnerable and Decreasing; Milia excelsa Near

Threatened – common but heavily exploited

  1. Teak: Endangered and Decreasing
  1. The Max Roach Centre is the Loughborough Community Centre at the Max Roach
  2. Wool filling supplied by Romney Marsh Wools

Recent article – New Scientist 18.4.23 “We Know How Kids Learn To Read So Why Are We Failing to Teach Them” by Colin Barras. Dominic Wyse at University College London says: ‘”When children read more, they learn to read better”. A young child who enjoys being read to is developing a love of books that will help motivate them to learn to read.’

Beautiful Wild  Gini Denison-Pender
Doorstep Library  Henrietta Yoxall
Ellen Mae Williams  Ellen Mae Williams
Giles Deacon  Giles Deacon
Greenscape Gardens  Carl Chaney and James Gleghorn
Light Visuals  Neil Parslow
Michael Ruh Glass Studio  Michael Ruh and Natascha Wahl
Neil Parslow Landscape Lighting  Neil Parslow
Philippa Craddock  Philippa Craddock
Rachael South Upholstery Design and Restoration  Rachael South
Reclaimed Design  Henry White
The Garnered  Anna Garner
Ultimate Library Philip Blackwell and Imogen Blackwell
LCC at the Max Roach Centre  Candice James
Holly Thomas (rainforest mural) Holly Thomas          
Harriets Plants (peat free plant nursery, supplying coir for our planters)  Harriet Thompson
Romney Marsh Wools (supplier of wool seat filling) Contact: Kristina Boulden