Horatio Chapple: Garden in memory of bear attack boy is best in show at Chelsea
The first wheelchair-accessible show garden in the history of the Chelsea Flower Show scooped the top prize at the world’s most prestigious horticultural event on Tuesday.
Horatio’s Garden, created by the spinal injuries charity of the same name with designers Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg, was named “Best in Show” by judges from the Royal Horticultural Society, which runs the 111-year-old event.
In contrast to many of the multi-level or naturalistic “rewilding” gardens that have impressed judges in recent years, it has been designed to “put the requirements of people with mobility needs at their heart.”
The charity was set up in memory of Horatio Chapple, a young volunteer at the spinal injuries unit in Salisbury who was killed aged just 17 in a polar bear attack during an expedition to the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard in 2011.
The charity’s aim is to create a Horatio’s Garden in all 11 NHS spinal injury units in the UK, which include the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Stanmore. The Chelsea garden will be relocated to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield after the show.
It is built entirely on one level with a completely smooth, joint-free terrazzo so there are no potentially painful bumps for wheelchair users.
The garden scooped a fourth Chelsea gold medal for the design team as well as the Best in Show accolade.
Harris said: ”This one feels really special and emotional because it is about people. We didn’t pick up a pencil until we had spoken to patients and NHS staff at all the hospitals over four or five months. The patients talked a lot about being able to escape their formica world and enjoy something they could touch and feel.”
Design features include a canopy of trees because “patients told us when they suffer a spinal injury their temperature regulation is affected so dappled shade is very important.”
A garden house with a bed designed by architects McMullan Studio is decorated with 1,200 thumb-prints of patients and staff as well as charity patron Princess Eugenie. She was unable to attend the royal visit yesterday because she is pregnant but sent sister Beatrice to represent her.
The royal party, led for the first time by King Charles, also included Queen Camilla and the Princess of Wales.
The RHS said it was the first year female designers outnumbered men, by 28 to 20. The Centrepoint Garden was named Best Construction. In the small garden categories, Best In Shows went to Charlie Hawkes’s The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space Garden in the Sanctuary Gardens section, and to Rosemary Coldstream for Feels Like Home in the Balcony and Container Gardens competition. The Talitha Arts Garden, designed by Joe and Laura Carey, won in the All About Plants category.
The London Square Community Garden, inspired by a garden built by volunteers on a Battersea estate, won a gold.