2017 RHS Chatsworth - The Cruse Bereavement Care Garden

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The most personal garden I have designed to date; this project was inspired by the recent loss of my father in law at the beginning of 2016, following his battle with terminal illness. Dedicated to the Cruse Bereavement Care charity the intention was to tell the story of terminal illness and the journey from the perspective of the loved ones.

The initial diagnosis of terminal illness can be a depressing time for all involved and this is reflected in the darker foliage and the spikey and uninviting specimens such as the Mahonias. The sawn and brushed yorkstone cube highlights the bubbling over of emotions into life that this diagnosis inevitably brings and at the same time you can see this is the beginning of a bigger journey as the water feature extends through the centre of the garden.

The multi stemmed silver birch and Sorbus trees at various points give a dappled shade and shelter to the path and these represent the people who might support the terminally ill and their loved ones such as the staff at Cruse Bereavement Care.

As you walk along the pathway you step over the rill and see the water flowing down the garden and this symbolises the heightened awareness, very early on, of the finite nature of time. As soon as you cross over this rill you are faced with the first of two curved walls and the choice to either step around the front and maybe sit and talk for a while with those involved and the rough and imperfect drystone walling wraps around you; or alternatively pass by the other side and the rendered curve representing the 'brave face' expected or felt needed by those involved when talking to someone detached from the situation.

The water in the rill, as it runs over the smooth stainless steel is interrupted by rough and irregular stone, just as we are disturbed from our busy every day lives (represented by the bright and vibrant planting that has developed in front of each wall) by the reminder of the terminal nature of the illness.

Then, as we reach the end of this pathway the Centrack gravel is broken by the cool grey brushed yorkstone by London Stone. Throughout the illness there was perhaps the idea that when this journey came to an end there would be peace and an end to suffering; but for us, when Tony died, that idea of peace was broken by the pain of loss and the wish to bring him back for just one more moment.

The planting from here onwards is much more green and quiet, as time inevitably helps with the grief and, whilst never totally disappearing, the pain mellows. The water within the rill has reduced in level after each break of stone as the time runs out and at the end of the path the water disappears under a large reflection pool where we have just a reflection/memory of those we have lost.

Either side of the rill we have placed sawn yorkstone copings hand engraved with names in memory of those lost by contributors to the garden and what started as a very personal and intimate idea is now shared by them and all who visited the show and may have related to the journey described here.

A big thank you to the main sponsors of the garden; London Stone, Miles Nurseries and John A Stephens.

And to other contributors; Landscape Plus, Collingwood lighting, Central Construction, Peterborough Regional College (Bill in particular) and of course Pete and Renata Smith who without which this project would not have been possible.

Planting List:

Fatsia Japonica, Mahonia Japonica, Cornus Alba, Sambucus Nigra 'Black Lace', Phormium purpurea, Hebe 'red edge', Euphorbia 'Robbiae', Euphorbia 'Wulfenii', Euphorbia 'Palustris, Acer Palatum, Viburnum 'Mariesii', Convulvulus Cneorium, Stipa Gigantia, Miscanthus 'Morning light', Dicksonia antarctica, Stipa tenuissima, Heuchera 'Obsidian', Heuchera 'Lime marmalade', Anthriscus sylvestris 'ravenswing', Sedum telphium 'Purple emperor', Foeniculum vulgare 'Giant Bronze', Ajuga reptans 'Atropurpurea', Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', Iris sylvestris, Astrantia major, Euonymus 'Emerald gaiety', Digitalis purpurea 'Alba', Vinca minor, Salvia 'caradonna', Asplenium scolopendrium, Dryopteris filix-mas, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Alchemilla Mollis, Lupinus 'Chandelier', Alium Christophii, Festuca glauca, Tellima grandiflora, Geranium 'Kashmir white', Various hostas, Lamium 'White nancy', Rosa 'Yvonne rabier', Salvia Officinalis

For more details visit the RHS website and on our usual social media pages.

Watch our time-lapse video below to see how we went about building the garden in just 19 long days! A big thank you to Adam at designacable.com for compiling this and helping us with all our cabling needs!