The Doorstep Library Garden: Words Take You Places

“A rainforest story lies on a cosy window seat in an elegant outdoor room. Delicate, textural plants reminiscent of temperate and tropical rainforests illustrate the power of books to transport you anywhere in the world. As dusk falls, gentle lighting illuminates the scene, highlighting books, maps and translucent glass shelves.” rhs
app list

Chelsea Flower Show 2023

In 2023 we were commissioned to construct our first garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Following working at the International Garden Festival in 2022, this was our second show garden working with the talented designer Gini Denison Pender of Beautiful Wild. The Doorstep Library Garden: Words Take You Places celebrated the community focused children's literacy charity Doorstep Library. The garden highlights the importance of rainforests as well as encouraging the importance for children to read.


Doorstep library is a community-focused literacy charity dedicated to bringing the magic of books and the joy of reading directly into the homes of children who need our support. With one in four 11 year olds leaving primary school unable to read or write properly, they recruit and train home and online reading volunteers to go into disadvantaged areas of London and beyond, to introduce young children to the pleasure and benefits of reading.
Chelsea Flower Shows 2023
Rainforest conservation


The idea of a window seat immersed in rainforest greens and surrounded by books grew from the thought that if children see the natural world as a place of wonder they will feel inspired to protect it. Reading is at the very heart of that: taking us 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 decline along with the flora and fauna of those regions. Our garden showcases the beauty of timber sourced and grown in the UK. Ferns and mosses of the temperate Atlantic coast rainforests of the UK and Pacific rainforests of the US were included for their varying shades of green and because they are hardy enough to survive in mild regions of the UK.

Also included were plants which come from the same families as tropical species, although we chose for this space ones which are not too tender and will survive a mild winter with a bit of extra care: a good example are our Passiflora hybrids, closely related to the Passiflora (passion fruit) species of the tropical and subtropical forests of Brazil. The Asplenium species below are plants of temperate rainforests related to tropical species too.

The dappled shade created by layering the plants in orangery style enclosures is ideal for the understorey species, while climbers like Passiflora can reach out for more sun. The planting medium is a lightweight water retentive coir lightly mixed with peat free compost so that the soil does not become too heavy and water can easily drain away. In a balcony situation the plants would need careful regular watering and once plants become too large for the space you would be ready for a swap with ground floor neighbours who can allow them to grow to full width and height!

See plant list below:


All of the timber used to construct this garden was from a single Cedar of Lebanon tree which had to be felled for safety reasons. Each piece of timber used was individually sanded, planed and routed and was constructed without any visible fixings. These details added to the beauty of the garden and construction.

This small garden really packed a punch with a cushioned seating area, recycled glass bookshelves, hanging Kokedama, 2 planters packed with tropical plants, mirrored walls and of course children’s books stored throughout.

This garden is a testament to how much you can achieve in a small space whilst celebrating vital messages that are close to our hearts. It has been relocated at the Max Roach Centre in Brixton where children will continue to use this garden for what it was intended, the magic of reading, ensuring that it lives on for many years to come.

We would like to say a massive 'thank you' to our daughter’s Dot and Arabella who visited the garden on press day. They spent the day exploring the magic of garden, its books and comforts, and stopping for the occasional photograph. They really brought the garden to life and it was a joy to see the garden being used for what it was intended.

Chelsea Flower Shows 2023