An award-winning garden which brought the ‘wow’ factor to this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was officially opened at its new permanent home, The Hospice of St Francis, a week ago last Sunday, with glorious sunshine drawing garden-lovers from far and wide.
The Hospice welcomed just under 300 guests to its Spring Garden Lane site in Berkhamsted for the unveiling of its stunning Myeloma UK Garden ‘Seeds of Hope’ – which won a Silver-Gilt medal at Chelsea and is one of only nine of the 27 gardens exhibited in May to be relocated in its entirety.
Rising from the garden’s centre is a 12-foot translucent sculpture, built from 120 layers of blue Perspex acrylic, which appears to be blowing seeds and plants onto fertile soil below, representing new medical treatments and as a sign of hope and growth.
Local resident Peter King, 76, from Great Gaddesden, was the inspiration for the garden after losing both his wife Gill and brother Graham to myeloma in 2016 and Peter and Gill’s daughter Gemma is the model for the sculpture. After helping secure funds to show the garden at Chelsea he crowdfunded so that Myeloma UK could gift it to the Hospice, where Gill was cared for in her final days.
“I wanted the garden to go to the Hospice because it is such a wonderful place and the services on offer are fantastic,” he said. “It also has beautiful grounds so by giving it a permanent home there, I hope the garden will bring both hope and inspiration to Hospice users as well as to those who work there, including the many dedicated volunteers.”
Dame Carolyn McCall, OBE, and first female Chief Executive of ITV, cut the ribbon, while Hospice CEO Kate Phipps-Wiltshire and Rosemarie Finley, Chief Executive of Myeloma UK, both spoke movingly about the garden’s significance for the charity which helps over 2,000 people a year affected by life-limiting illness to live their precious lives well.
Guests included the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Suzy Harvey, Mayor of Dacorum Cllr Rosie Sutton, former Hospice Chairs of Trustees Joan Gentry, Jo Connell and Charlie Toner, and current Chair Alison Woodhams. Together they enjoyed refreshments, canapes, live music, inspirational talks from the garden’s designers John Everiss and Francesca Murrell, stalls selling gardening-related items, and volunteer-led tours of the Hospice’s seven-acre gardens.
Thanks to sponsors, beauty product specialists Glorious Brands, all funds raised from the opening – anticipated to be in the region of £5,000-£6,000 - will directly support patient care.
“It was the most fantastic event,” said keen gardener Margaret Cliffe, from The Chestnuts, Hemel Hempstead, who attended with her friend Ros Purcell. “The last time I visited the Hospice was soon after it moved to its current site when the gardens didn’t exist so to see them and the stunning Myeloma UK Garden now was wonderful,” she said.
“The sculture and garden is beautiful, unusual and looks totally different depending on which angle you look at it from, the talks by the designers were absolutely fascinating and very moving, the atmosphere was beautifully relaxed with drinks, food and lovely music, I bought Narcissi bulbs and I even discovered a new plant - a blue Caryopteris – which will bring just the late colour I’m looking for to my garden at home.”
Designer, John Everiss, commented: “It’s just fantastic that the garden will live on at The Hospice of St Francis. Many people who go to a hospice are looking for hope and it’s a piece of art they’ll see as they come up the drive which represents a positive message of overcoming struggles.”
Kate Phipps-Wiltshire said: “We are delighted and honoured to receive the gift of the RHS Chelsea 2018 Myeloma UK Garden, bringing a very special meaning in its design and planting, and representing seeds of hope for patients, families, staff, volunteers and visitors for generations to come.
“On behalf of the Hospice, I would like to thank everyone who came to the Grand Opening. We were truly humbled by the help given to bring the event together and the interest and support on the day - many of our guests never having been to the Hospice before. We have a deep connection with the transformative power of gardens at The Hospice of St Francis and our Myeloma UK partnership is testimony to this.”