The Lemon Tree Trust Garden

A garden inspired by the resilience, determination and ingenuity of refugees living in Domiz camp in Northern Iraq, was unveiled at the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The Lemon Tree Trust garden, designed with the input of refugees, highlighted the unexpected beauty hidden in the camp. The garden was designed to be used as a space to begin to organise the chaos inherent in forced migration, while also providing a sense of normality, wellbeing, peace and civility to broken lives.

Beautiful yet drought tolerant planting educated visitors about the type of plants refugees grow in the camp. Ingenious vertical planting, inspired by refugees’ use of everyday objects, and including input from refugees themselves, provided ideas for planting in limited spaces. Trees laden with fruit, including figs, lemons and pomegranates, provided scent and crops to harvest. Brutal, harsh materials, such as concrete and steel, widely available in the camps, were elevated with techniques such as polishing, casting and crafting into patterns and intricate Islamic inspired designs. Colourful and textural planting softened the hard materials. Cooling and calming water flowed throughout the space, collected in channels and pools, recycled and pumped back through the brimming central Islamic inspired fountain, representing the importance of grey water reuse and the many makeshift fountains refugees have built in their own gardens in Domiz camp.

Tom Massey progressed to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with a 10x13m Main Avenue garden, after two successful show gardens at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The garden was built by award winning contractor Landscape Associates and was awarded an RHS Silver-Gilt medal. 

The Lemon Tree Trust supports the development of urban agriculture and greening innovation for refugees and displaced people, promoting food production, well-being and community: lemontreetrust.org 

Photographs by Britt Willoughby Dyer