Chelsea-winning garden moves to Aberdeen

A former RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden has found a new role providing therapy for patients at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

The 2013 RBC Blue Water Roof Garden
The Queen has officially unveiled a therapeutic roof-top garden at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, featuring a repurposed RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden.

The new Robertson Family Roof Garden at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary boasts a Gold-medal standard show garden, and has been designed to assist the recovery of patients, and to give their families a space to relax during their hospital stays.

Reimagined from the 2013 Royal Bank of Canada Blue Water Roof Garden designed by Professor Nigel Dunnett, the garden provides a welcoming outdoor space allowing patients, relatives, visitors and staff the opportunity to sit and relax among a range of flowers, grasses, and trees.

Professor Dunnett was originally approached by the NHS to advise on the design and planting of the roof garden due to his extensive experience with researching and implementing naturalistic plant mixes for green roofs and roof gardens. At the time, he was planning and designing an eco-city roof garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and suggested that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary might wish to relocate the garden after Chelsea.

The concept for the original show garden had included wetlands, a rain garden and drought-tolerant planting as well as living walls, which had to be transported to Aberdeen, and then stored for two years while the new hospital building was built.

Nigel found the biggest challenges were creating enough spaces for hospital beds to be wheeled in an out of the garden, and installingl the water-feature within health and safety guidelines.

“I had to completely re-design it to make it work in the hospital setting. The trick was to keep the main recognisable features from the Chelsea garden, but to re-work it in a way that met the hospital brief.”

Key features of the new garden

Seating is a key part of the garden, and has been integrated into the retaining walls and around the raised planters - some seating is at child-level.

Naturalistic planting and long-flowering species have been used and there is textural and evergreen interest for the winter. A large number of the plants used are aromatic and scented.

The circular water feature, complete with a bubbling fountain at its centre, creates a constant soothing background noise, and the drought-tolerant living wall has been re-shaped to allow it to be included in the hospital garden.

Aberdeen granite paving has been used to provide a local connection, and also to look good - the garden is overlooked on all sides by hospital wards and is also visible from inside the building

LED lighting set into the edges of the raised planters and uplighters beneath the trees makes the garden available to visitors at night.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.