An “adaptive garden” suitable for disabled patients with spinal injuries has won the Best Show Garden award at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Leading visitors past cairns and a water feature set at a wheelchair-user’s eye level is a cement-free terrazzo-style path, without any bumps or gradient.
Designers Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg built the garden for Horatio’s Garden charity, which creates natural landscapes outside NHS spinal injury centres.
The garden will go to one such centre in Sheffield after the Chelsea show and will be made eight times larger.
Ms Harris said: “If you’ve had a spinal injury you’re often in bed in a ward for many months at a time, and if you think about what you’re looking at, it’s usually a very unattractive hospital ceiling.
“Everywhere inside the hospital is sterile, bleeps and buttons, wiped clean, and actually getting people out, looking at canopies, thinking about the garden from different levels, whether it’s a bit lower or looking up.
“There are different level windows in the garden room, the planting has been designed, and the height of the water table has been designed, specifically with that in mind.”
The walls are covered with 1,200 thumbprints of everyone who was involved in the garden’s creation, from patients to NHS staff to RHS judges.
Large wheeled plant plots slide along the perfectly-smooth and flat path, designed to accommodate positioning beds or chairs in areas that patients like to be.
Ms Harris said: “It’s not only patient friendly but it’s environmentally friendly. This is cement-free, so just this amount of paving has saved the equivalent carbon of three return flights to New York.”
Creating nature-friendly gardens was a theme among other gardeners and growers, with the Royal Entomological Society garden focusing on the role of insects and many designers including drought-resistant plants as well as wildflowers native to the UK.
Lindum Wildflower Turf won the Sustainable Garden Product of the Year with its piece of seed-planted turf that can be bought and delivered to home gardens to provide benefits for pollinators.
Agapanthus black jack won Plant of the Year, itself a drought-resistant plant once established, which originates from South Africa and has black and purple flowers.
Other winners include the Centrepoint Garden for the Best Construction Award, the National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space for the Best Sanctuary Garden, Feels Like Home for the Best Balcony & Container Garden and the Talitha Arts Garden for the Best All About Plants Garden.
Ms Harris said: “The great thing about gardening is we relinquish control, that is what gardeners love, that’s what is in our DNA, we don’t try and fight nature, we work with it. And sometimes that’s just taking a very light touch with it.
“I think it’s been a great show. The range of ideas and different gardens and the quality of those has been exceptional. It has been a vintage year.
“Someone said that everyone on Main Avenue has had a gold medal at some point.”