The Chelsea Flower Show is the key event in the horticultural calendar and one of, if not, the most famous flower and garden show in the world. It attracts over 150,000 visitors including members of the Royal Family as well as celebrities. This year the Duchess of Cambridge has designed a back-to-nature garden whilst the charity that the Duchess of Sussex supports, Camfed, won a gold medal. The Show takes places on the 11 acre land of the Chelsea Royal Hospital, on the Chelsea Embankment. In just 25 days the site transforms from lawn and gravel pathways to an amass of colour with gardens surrounding the main pavilion.
We were approached by representatives of the Greenfingers Charity and Kate Gould Gardens who were creating an accessible garden for the Chelsea Flower Show 2019. Greenfingers is a charity that creates outdoor spaces for a number of children hospices. Since their inception they've created 55 gardens across the country. Their gardens include space where children can play as well as sensory gardens where they can relax and have therapeutic rest. The Charity needed a garden that would be accessible and would include interactive features for children.
Year Completed: 2019
Kate was tasked with designing and bringing the concept to life. Kate is a Chelsea gold medal-winning garden designer, however this was her first show garden on the main avenue. The garden would feature an accessible ramp to the lower floor with interactive items throughout the lower level. From the original concept Kate wanted an upper level where visitors could find a new perspective on the garden therefore she needed a way of visitors reaching the upper deck. The original concept of the garden included a water lift. A water lift uses a pump to transfer water into two weights which would then cause the lift to ascend. The concept behind a water lift is incredible however it brings its own unique set of challenges. These are whether it can meet modern health and safety regulation and whether it will stand up to the constant use that the Show demands. After several consultations between Kate Gould Gardens, Access Lifts and independent lift consultants the result was that it would be too challenging to include the water lift design in the garden.
The Greenfingers Charity Garden would be the first garden in the Show's history to feature a lift. The lift is an open platform that travels 2.8 metres to the upper deck, enclosed by a fully glazed shaft. The lift didn't require a pit so there is a small ramp on the platform. At Kate's request the lift was sprayed Emerald Green (RAL 6001). When we first saw the lift after it had been sprayed we thought that it could be too much. However once installed the lift blended perfectly into the lush garden. The whole garden was completed within the 25 day limit. Once the Chelsea Flower Show 2019 officially opened, the garden (and lift) was in constant use. The Monday of the Show, reserved for the press and VIPs, saw many celebrities inspecting the garden and using the lift to get to the upper deck. Much of the BBC's coverage took place on the upper level of the garden due to its viewpoint over a large proportion of main avenue. On Tuesday Kate was awarded a silver-gilt medal for her effort. An incredible achievement for the first garden at RHS Chelsea with a lift.