Behind the Blind Veterans UK Hampton Court garden
Zia Allaway discovers the design behind the Gold medal show garden
Following their Garden for Crohn’s Disease in 2016, Andrew Fisher Tomlin FSGD and Dan Bowyer MSGD returned to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year with a garden for Blind Veterans UK. Here, Andrew tells all about their Gold-medal winning show garden.
HOW DID YOUR SHOW GARDEN FOR BLIND VETERANS UK COME ABOUT?
We have been working with Blind Veterans UK for three years now. The charity originally approached us through Twitter, and subsequently asked us to design a garden for its Llandudno rehabilitation centre to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The result was a four-acre woodland garden for the beneficiaries, staff and volunteers at the centre, which we created almost entirely with the help of volunteers. The success of this project prompted the charity to then approach us about the idea of a show garden to help raise awareness of its work, and to reach out to people who could benefit from its services, but as yet don’t know about them.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOUR DESIGN?
The charity helps anyone of any age with impaired vision who has served in the UK Armed Forces, regardless of whether their sight loss was the result of combat or due to another cause. It aims to support members to lead independent lives and cater for all age groups, from the 19-year-old cadet to the 106-year-old Second World War veteran.
The garden was designed to appeal to the people the charity supports but we didn’t want it to be a ‘sensory’ garden for blind people, in the traditional sense. The thing that struck us about the charity is the sense of community and fun that it encourages, and the amazing learning, training and recreational facilities it provides. And it is these messages about the community that is Blind Veterans UK that we want to convey through our design.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ELEMENTS OF THE GARDEN?
Visitors entered the garden through a vine sculpture, which wrapped around the whole space and leads to a village square with a woven willow tree seat at the heart of the design. The vine sculpture, created by renowned artist Tom Hare, allowed people to experience the textures, colours and fragrance of the garden at first hand. It also represented The Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace, which blind veterans tended after the First World War.
There were be a number of art and craft sculptures and features made by blind veterans themselves, as well as a kitchen garden and orchard, reflecting the therapies and skills the charity offers participants.