“Let the children be free; let them run outside when it is raining;
let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water…”
The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden celebrates the pioneering vision for education introduced in Britain
by Maria Montessori in 1919. Created by award-winning landscape designer, Jody Lidgard, the Space To Grow
garden reflects the key principles that lie at the heart of Montessori’s approach to education.
Child-led and future-driven, the garden provides an engaging space to nurture children, teaching them about
the natural world alongside the modern technology that is the future of horticulture.
A propagating greenhouse doubles as a teaching area designed as a scientific, playful and interesting space
where children can grow micro vegetables and salad leaves using cutting edge hydroponic technology.
Sustainability is a key theme, demonstrated by the SUDS compliant system that slows down storm water from
the roof into the natural filtration system that is then used for irrigation.
The covered teaching area benefits from a living fern wall. From here, children can see into the wormery and
understand the connections between living things. A dipping pond gives way to a water play station allowing
children to learn about measurement, sinking and floating in a fun way, whilst the pergola’s picking platforms
enable children to snip, tear and taste, learning through the senses.
Leonor Stjepic, CEO of Montessori St Nicholas, comments: “Maria Montessori believed fervently in the
importance of access to the outdoors. She was a pioneer and well ahead of her times when it came to placing
priority on Early Years learning. Our 2018 YouGov study found a high majority (89%) of parents of children aged
six and under agreed Early Years educators have an essential role to play in their child’s development. This
garden is a reminder of the vital part that nature plays in a holistic approach to Early Years education. We want
visitors to rediscover the joy of learning and inspire children to discover the natural world in a fun and interactive
This is the first time that horticulturist and educator, Jody Lidgard, has designed a garden for RHS Chelsea Flower
Show. The father of six has brought to life the child-centric approach to education with a design that illustrates
the multi-sensory nature of a Montessori classroom. He adds: “Visitors to Chelsea may be surprised by the
imperfect look of this garden. This is a space that is designed to be experienced and enjoyed by chidren, teaching
them about the natural world and allowing them to explore horticulture in their own way.”
(Click on image to enlarge)
Following the conclusion of the show, there are plans to relocate the garden to the Museum of Childhood in
London’s Bethnal Green providing a natural teaching space for families in the local community. The area has a
strong history of Montessori links as suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst used the Montessori approach to set up the
Mother’s Arms nursery in Bow.
Additionally, the wider Montessori and early years communities will benefit from online tools that will help
them to recreate in their own environments the many innovative features introduced in the Montessori
Centenary Children’s Garden.