When Myeloma UK contacted me about designing a garden for them at Chelsea this year to help raise awareness of the blood cancer, I didn’t have a second thought about it.
This will be my by seventh RHS – and my fourth Chelsea – garden, so I’m starting to feel part of the furniture! It’s also the one place where my designs can be really big and bonkers, and 2018 is no exception.
This Garden is particularly special as it was inspired by a Myeloma UK supporter called Peter King whose wife Gill and brother Graham both passed away in 2016 from the cancer. Gill loved Chelsea Flower Show and it seemed the perfect platform to raise awareness of myeloma and give a positive message about the fight against it.
The main focus of the garden is an enormous head, shoulder and hands sculpture in the centre, which is modelled on Peter and Gill’s daughter Gemma. It represents the role of the carer, who is often crucial in ensuring the patient remains the central focus of a myeloma diagnosis.
‘Gemma’ will weigh seven tonnes, be 12 feet high and constructed from layers of transparent Arctic blue Perspex® acrylic. The sculpture will be part-assembled before the show and, as the gates at Chelsea are nine feet high, will be fully constructed on the grounds. I’m wondering what people will think as we trundle down the motorway from Lancashire to London with her on board two open-top arctic lorries!
To make sure the sculpture is an exact replica of Gemma, we scanned her head, shoulders and hands to generate a very detailed 3D digital image. This data was then used to create the multiple layers of the sculpture. Stage One, who are known, amongst many other high profile projects, for building Thomas Heatherwick’s iconic London 2012 Olympic cauldron, will create the layers using tonnes of Perspex® acrylic sheet.
Gemma’s left hand will be pushing away boulders. These are physical representations of plasma cells, from which the cancer arises, as well as symbols of the barriers and the obstacles people face in care when they suffer with myeloma. The boulders weigh up to two tonnes each and have been supplied by a company called Mid Wales Stone.
Gemma’s right hand is cupped and it will look like she is gently blowing seeds and plants onto fertile soil below, to represent new treatment and as a sign of hope and growth.
There is no defined path through the garden, purposefully mirroring the situation many myeloma patients face. Francesca Murrell, who is a RHS Gold medal winning designer and exceptionally talented plants woman has designed the planting plan, which features up to 60 different plants and trees across the garden. These include: Taxus balls, Prunus and Malus, Anthriscus sylvestris, Matteuccia struthiopteris and Melica nutans.
We’re very thankful to sponsors Bord na Móna Growise, Meyer Homes, The Christopher Laing Foundation and Mo Moody in memory of her husband, Mike Moody, for supporting this garden.
The 2018 Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 22 to 26. More information at https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show