Garden inspired by Crohn’s Disease wins gold at major event

25 July 2017

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A Crohn’s Disease inspired garden called ‘Facing Fear: Finding Hope in support of Crohn’s and Colitis UK' has won a Gold award for best show garden at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Shower Tatton Park which was on display from 20-23 July 2017. 

As well as winning gold medal at the show, the garden has gone on to win the RHS People's Choice Award so a HUGE thank you to all who voted for this inspiring garden! The 77sq m garden has been designed by Rory Tompsett and Peter Hulland, working with keen gardener, Denise Shields who was inspired to create the garden having seen the devastating effects the condition has had on her son Callum. The garden depicts the story of an individual’s emotional journey through illness and remission. 

The journey begins in Facing Fear, an uninviting place. The confusion, loneliness and turbulence an individual can suffer when their condition erupts are symbolised by the steel pergola, angular path and bubbling pool while the sensations of fear and pain are represented by the dark colour and texture of the planting. When exhaustion becomes overwhelming, the bespoke redwood chair provides a welcome place to retreat. Steps, drawing the visitor downward into Finding Hope represented by a bright sunken area, reflect the transition towards better health. This is a happy place, where improved well-being and confidence are illustrated by the attractive, colourful planting and gently flowing water, which raise the spirits. A formal hedge, denoting an inner boundary is a reminder that Crohn’s Disease has no known cure and those diagnosed have to learn to manage the disease. This ambiguity is emphasised by the specially commissioned stainless steel sculpture.

Over 300,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis which are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. At the age of 13, Denise’s son Callum was diagnosed with the disease, and in 2013 at the age of 23 he had a severe relapse of the condition which nearly cost him his life, changing his life forever. It took Callum two years to fully enter remission, and during this time, the charity was able to provide support for him. Denise was inspired by the bravery and resilience shown by her son, in the face of his debilitating disease, so she wanted to do something positive to help him and all those people who are affected by these dreadful conditions.

When I first had the crazy idea of creating this garden I never expected that we would end up winning Gold at this prestigious event. It's taken two years and more than 40 partners working together to bring this garden to life and I it has far outreached my expectations. Winning this gold award is the icing on the cake but the most important thing is that we raise awareness of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and represent what it is like with such an unpredictable illness, so that more people can get the support they need.

Denise Shields

I am very happy to be the inspiration for the garden design, and proud of my mum’s determination to make the project a success. It was incredibly emotional when the garden received the gold award as it shows that the judges connected with the garden and understood that whilst Crohn’s disease is often viewed as an invisible illness, and a person might look ‘okay’ on the outside, they may be in a daily battle with a serious medical condition. I felt it was important to raise awareness of this debilitating condition and this project has had a positive effect on so many people.

Callum Shields