Chelsea 2013: The Arthritis Research UK Garden

As the clock ticked around to 8pm on Wednesday evening, we finally reached the Arthritis Research UK Garden, winner of a gold medal and the People’s Choice award for best garden. After a cold and drizzly day, the sun finally emerged from behind the clouds, accentuating the many contrasts in this inspiring garden. Designed by Chris Beardshaw, the garden featured planting and sculpture reflecting the disease and its impact on the lives of sufferers.

The space was divided into three key areas, each reflecting a different stage in the journey of someone diagnosed with arthritis. The Veiled Garden, an enclosed and shaded woodland area, represented the pain described by those who suffer with the disease and the confusion felt following initial diagnosis. From the Veiled Garden, a stone pathway lead into the Lucid Garden. Here the planting opened up into a more formal space representing understanding and security, as sufferers begin to learn about their condition.

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Finally, in the Radiant Garden, the space between structural hedging was filled with exuberant planting, highlighting a sense of liberation as the person with arthritis learns to manage their condition and enjoy their life again. The planting was vivacious and optimistic, employing a palette of pinks, purples, oranges and blues and featuring striking specimens such as Iris ‘Supreme Sultan’, Lupinus ‘Masterpiece’, Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’, Tanacetum parthenium, Escholtzia californica, Echium pininana, Geranium palmatum and Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’. The rich tapestry of colours and textures gave me lots of ideas for our own garden.

Chris was inspired by his own personal journey with arthritis; from being diagnosed at 19 with a form of rheumatoid arthritis through to managing his condition by keeping active and doing the things he loves. I am sure that through this garden he has inspired a large number of people to follow the same example.

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