Kate Gould at Chelsea: The Greenfingers Charity garden

A garden on two levels that had accessibility at its heart

Kate GouldEven experienced Chelsea designers face unexpected challenges, and for Kate Gould, it was creating a completely accessible garden.

“I didn’t think it would, but it’s definitely changed the way I think about garden design,” said Kate, ahead of her appearance at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

“It’s made me appreciate accessibility more – you can’t put a price on being able to go outside and feel the wind on your face and look up at the trees.”

In just a few short weeks, Kate will be transforming a space inside the world’s most famous flower show into The Greenfingers Charity Garden – a design made to be accessible to all.

Sponsored by Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to supporting children in hospices through the creation of gardens, the Show Garden will be split on two levels, with a lift for access to the top floor.

“This is a garden for times you come together as a family,” said Kate, “making memories in a beautiful, outdoor space.”   

A garden for all

The Greenfingers Charity Garden

Accessibility is at the heart of Kate’s garden this year and has driven the plans for the design.

“The garden needed to be step free, but by the time we’d allowed enough space for the sloping walkways, we were limited for the rest of the design,” said Kate. “That was an unexpected challenge, but inspired me to take the garden onto two levels.”

This was where the lift came in. It has space for a child in a wheelchair and a carer or family member to access the garden's second floor and take in views from a higher perspective.

From this, it was only natural that the split-level design would influence the planting.

“We’re having trees in the garden, some of these on the top level,” explained Kate. “As they’re higher they need to be sun and wind tolerant too.”

Arbutus unedo, a tough evergreen, was a natural choice for the top deck along with pines and shrubs. Other trees in the planting include Diospyros lotus and Cornus kousa.

Choisya ‘Greenfingers’Ferns, hardy tropical plants and grasses such as Stipa tenuissima and Stipa gigantea feature throughout the garden. White spring flowers, including newly-launched Choisya ‘Greenfingers’ (pictured right), are scattered throughout to create an overall calming palate of green and white.

 “I wanted to include plants that aren’t overly complicated,” explained Kate. “The plants aren’t too fussy or overbred and come back year after year, without much effort. Hopefully the planting will provide plenty of take-home ideas for people to try."

Beyond Chelsea

Myles DuringAfter Chelsea, many elements of the garden will be relocated to Richard House Hospice in East London. Richard House is an organisation that provides care to children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions across London, including Myles During (pictured).

Five-year-old Myles has short gut syndrome, which means he has to be fed through a tube that has been surgically placed into his heart. He's connected to the tube for 14 hours every day and needs constant supervision.

Despite these challenges, Myles is a lively, energetic, bright young boy and loves spending time in the garden at Richard House.

Myles' dad Jerry said: “It's so important to us that Myles can take part safely in everyday childhood activities such as playing ball in the garden and Richard House ensures he can do this. Amazing.”

“This garden has so much heart and soul behind it, so it’s great that it’s going to have a second life at Richard House,” said Kate.

“The plants, chairs and soft furnishings will all be put to good use by families and children who spend time at the hospice.

“This is why we’re creating the garden – for Greenfingers and the children who really need it.”

See the Greenfingers Charity Garden

Read more articles like this:

Creating the CAMFED Garden
Donkeys Matter: The story behind the garden 

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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.