The Zoflora and Caudwell Children's Wild Garden

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017

I was honoured to be part of the team involved in the Zoflora and Caudwell Children's Wild Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017, designed by landscape architects Adam White and Andree Davies of Davies White Ltd. The garden achieved a RHS Gold medal, Best in Show Tudor Award and People's Choice Award. This is the first garden at a flower show to attain all three accolades.
The garden has a tranquil woodland setting, aiming to reconnect children with nature, whilst also being a sensory and therapeutic garden. The garden was designed for children with various disabilities and in particular Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It uses mature trees including a weeping beech and walnut specimen. The under planting is critical to the design, being multi-sensory – taste, smell and texture, as well as offering sound and movement from the wind; engaging the children to interact with the environment that surrounds them.

The entrance to the garden is an open woodland glade with a limited pallet of plants, leading into an enclosed woodland area with more complex, layered planting whilst introducing scent and colour. This offers the children secluded play spaces which peel off from the main path to relax and have fun in. Features such as an empowering spinning bolder, mushroom cave, wild grassy mounds, tree top nests, a hollowed out oak tree, living willow pods, a trampoline, tree swing and carved out boulder along with a flowing stream through the garden allow for different aspects of play.

Working on the show garden throughout the week before judging, my role was instrumental in laying out the planting, without any preconceived planting plan, in order to create a unified and cohesive space throughout the garden, linking the different areas whilst creating a very natural and relaxed feel to the planting, whilst drawing on my knowledge of how these plants grow in nature. When planting was completed, I then worked with a scrutinising horticultural eye through the trees and understorey planting, finessing the subjects to achieve their optimum best and worthy of Gold Medal status.

Following the show, the garden will be reimagined at the Caudwell International Children’s Centre at Keele University, which provides multi-disciplinary support for children with developmental disorders.
Unloading the many plants arriving onsite in order to set out the planting schemes of the show gardenPlanting around the stream is underwayTaking a break from planting the banks of the streamReflecting on the scale of the task in-handContrasting foliage with fleeting colourPlanting surrounding tree top nest and carved egg boulderTesting out the boulder seat by the track to the hedgehog homeSunlight streaming down onto the path and the periscope to the mushroom caveAlmost completeMeadow grass surrounding the entrance to the gardenLiving willow pod and empowering spinning boulderStream meandering into woodland areaLiving willow pod and spinning boulder in meadow grass areaCircular seating area and sandpit in meadow grass areaCircular seating and sandpit areaSpinning boulder in actionGround level trampoline which will accommodate wheelchairsDelicate foliage framing the view of the stream from the tree top nestLooking down upon the stream from the tree top nest clad in stags horn oakRope swing suspended from fallen treeHaving fun on the tree swingLiving willow pod behind streamLiving willow pod and stream with path leading to the mushroom caveBold contrasting plantingLayered planting set against hollowed out oak treeMeadow grass merging into woodland plantingTextural, layered plantingSunlight filtering through the treesEvening sunlight streaming through the treesDappled shadeTextural planting beneath the tree lineColour dotted through the garden from the planting and visitors behindSplashes of colour set amongst the foliageThe vast expanse of planting at the side of the garden