Back to the Chelsea Flower Show…one of the high points is always the show gardens; incredibly beautiful and ambitious gardens which are created just for the week by top garden designers. I’m always a big fan of Chris Beardshaw‘s gardens, which seem to float dreamily above a solid, earthy structure. It’s no surprise that his Arthritis Research UK garden was my favourite again this year, but what was surprising was that it was inspired by the designer’s own experience of living with arthritis, a condition which he had been very private about.
The garden was beautiful to look at, but I also really identified with its concept. It interpreted three stages of chronic illness: the devastating diagnosis, through acceptance as you learn about your disease and learn to live with it, to the point where you have regained some control and some freedom, where you know that you have a future – albeit a different shaped future to the one you expected. It’s a garden about suffering, resilience and human optimism. I have my own chronic autoimmune illness – Crohn’s disease – and I found Chris Beardshaw’s garden very moving. It’s always really inspirational to hear how others determinedly overcome the limitations of their diseases to fulfill their dreams and live as normal a life as they possibly can. I’m so glad that Chris has shared his own experiences, as by doing so he gives hope to others.
Chris used three sculptures to help tell the story of the garden. Two were by Anna Gillespie, who made the haunting figure above, coming out of the confusion as they learn how to manage their condition. She also made this bronze of a crouched figure, the image of loneliness and despair.
I love this wire sculpture, called ‘Libertine’ by Michelle Castles, conveying confidence and release!
The garden won not just a gold medal, but also the People’s Choice Award, which I think shows just how many people were moved by the garden and inspired by its message.
Thank you to flowerona – a gorgeous blog for all things horticultural – for some of the images.