The Mid Cheshire Hospitals Charity launched their ‘Everybody Knows Somebody’ Dementia Appeal in 2017 to raise £1.5 million to enhance the dementia and cognitive impairment facilities at Leighton Hospital in Crewe. In support of this appeal, The Cheshire Garden collaborated with the Charity, designing a scheme for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park to raise awareness of dementia and its impact on the people of Cheshire. The finished scheme was awarded one of only three highly coveted spots in the Future Spaces category at the show which focusses on innovative approaches to developing outdoor spaces to meet contemporary and future needs.
The Cheshire Garden interpreted the Future Spaces theme by creating a conceptual garden which was rich in symbolism and designed to educate visitors about the journey taken by dementia patients. The title of the garden, ‘Remember Me’, was chosen in reference to the tendency of those with dementia to find memories from earlier periods in their lives easier to recall than those from the shorter term. Although it was not conceived as a therapy garden, ‘Remember Me’ included a number of elements designed to evoke personal memories, provide stimulation or create a comforting environment, with a view to inspiring visitors to develop spaces specifically for those with dementia to enjoy.
The Completed Garden
The Cheshire Garden chose a distinctive hexagonal shape for the garden both to promote a feeling of enclosure and security for its users and as a representation of the extensive support network required by a dementia patient, and this shape recurred throughout the design.
Entry to the garden was via ‘The Room of Inklings’, a specially commissioned wooden structure created by local artist Wendy Connelly of RAW-i Studios which replicated the hexagonal shape. The walls of the room comprised fascinating panels inset with bottles holding objects such as buttons, marbles and shells, while within were found rummage drawers containing tools and other everyday items. These features were designed to trigger memories, provide a comforting familiarity, and to stimulate conversation.
Emerging from ‘The Room of Inklings’ visitors entered an open space which allowed people to wander freely without feeling trapped. Hard landscaping materials were chosen which were mellow in colour with a uniform surface and texture, avoiding the use of shiny materials which those with dementia can perceive as water or unsettling black voids.
The centre piece of the garden was a floor clock set to 5 o’clock, a time of day when dementia patients can become agitated as they associate it with a period of activity such as coming home from work, cooking a meal or spending time with children. The clock hands also pointed to a washing line and a basket representing a comforting repetitious task.
The surrounding planting scheme was designed both to incorporate traditional cottage garden flowers which would be familiar to visitors, stimulating memories and providing pleasure, and to symbolise the journey taken by dementia patients from initial diagnosis to full-time care.
At the start of the journey were found bold blocks of brightly coloured plants such as Kniphofia, Antirrhinum and Dahlia, representing clarity of thought. This then gave way to a border of more integrated and less defined planting using a palate of more muted pinks and purples such as Delphinium, Dianthus and Lavatera, representing the muddled gaps in memory that begin to appear.
The journey concluded with a naturalistic wildflower meadow within which were positioned three old style hospital beds, symbolising the later stages of dementia where patients require full-time care. These were filled with fragrant herbs such as Chamomile and Galium triflorum, also known as Sweet-Scented Bedstraw,which are said to have therapeutic benefits. To the rear of each of the beds were positioned Corten steel panels laser cut with different flowers, echoing the dementia ward where flower images are used to identify each patient’s bed.
All of the design elements described above came together to create a space which worked both to provide a coherent and harmonious garden environment and as a stimulating and informative depiction of the condition of dementia.
The Cheshire Garden was delighted that the high quality of the ‘Remember Me’ garden was recognised by being awarded a Silver-Gilt medal in the Future Spaces category by judges at the 2017 RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. It was particularly gratifying that, with so many visitors to the Show and the subsequent publicity the garden received, The Cheshire Garden helped to bring attention to the Mid Cheshire Hospitals Charity ‘Everybody knows Somebody’ Dementia Appeal. If you are inspired by what you have read about the ‘Remember Me’ garden and would like to support the appeal you can Donate Here.
Garden designer Jane Bingham, of The Cheshire Garden, is happy to provide behind the scenes talks about her experience of presenting a show garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park to gardening clubs, WI groups and other interested parties. Please contact The Cheshire Garden to make arrangements.
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