The Meningitis Now Futures Garden was designed by John Everiss and built by Peter Gregory Landscapes, Andrew Loudon and Chilstone. The RHS judges awarded the Meningitis Now Futures Garden a Silver-Gilt Medal. This Artisan Garden was voted the Best Artisan Garden, in the People’s Choice Awards, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
The Meningitis Now Futures Garden celebrates 30 years of the charity Meningitis Now, the garden is inspired by the spirit, energy and positivity of the young people whose lives have been changed by Meningitis. Meningitis Now was formed in Stroud, in Gloucester, England, so Cotswold gardens have provided further inspiration for this garden’s design, which features a Greek folly as its centrepiece to represent the charity. The seating is inscribed with Meningitis Now’s motto. Either side of the folly, the walls represent the disease and the recovery process. A large specimen Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ provides height, whilst pastel themed perennials, including Geum ’Totally Tangerine’, Lavender and Nepeta, provide the underplanting.
I was keen to find out more about The Meningitis Now Futures Garden, so I met up with Amanda Oxford, the Development Director of Meningitis Now, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
Amanda Oxford: …..The girl with the dark hair, she’s a triple amputee, but is also a Paralympic.
Pumpkin Beth: I didn’t even realise she was disabled!
AO: This garden is about before the disease, and after.
PB: It’s so good that you’re getting out such a great and important message – ‘Disabled People Can’.
AO: Absolutely! This is about believe and achieve.
AO: When I met John last year, we’d had the idea that we wanted to do something in our 30th year, because we wanted to let people know that this disease still exists, it’s rarer, and there’s been great medical intervention. The tableau at the back of the garden is all about the medical intervention, the greek god of medicine, the Edwardian surgeon and the modern day surgeon. But meningitis strikes out of nowhere, you need to be aware of the signs, because even though there aren’t many cases any more, it’s so sudden, and it’s so difficult to diagnose – if you don’t suspect it because you don’t think it exists any more, it could be fatal. But it’s absolutely all about the disease, and then the recovery, helping each other. The colour of the charity is orange, hence the different colours of planting either side, from the orange starting when we help people through recovery, and then we’re there throughout peoples lives when they need us.
PB: So why did you choose John Everiss as a designer?
AO: That’s a really interesting question. We got the seed of the idea – I was chatting to one of our business ambassadors about the idea, and he had a great idea to raise the profile of the charity. I had no idea he was into gardening, but he loves gardening, and was having his garden done at the time, by John, and thought we should meet him.
The RHS advice was if you haven’t been here before as an exhibitor, choose a designer who knows the process. For us, we clearly care very much about our families and the people that we help, and we knew a lot of our young people were going to be involved – well, we didn’t actually then, as we didn’t know the sculptures were going to be here, but we knew we wanted to involve them in it. I came here last year and met John on his garden, and just chatted to him about the idea, and he got it – like that! In two minutes he knew exactly what we were trying to achieve.
AO: But he’s been such an ambassador; you know, so many designers are here when the judges come, they are here to talk to the BBC, but John’s been here every second of the day, talking to people, to the young people, he’s wonderful!
PB: Did you start the charity?
AO: No, the charity started 30 years ago in Stroud in the Cotswolds, there was a big outbreak of meningitis and there was a group of parents who were desperately trying to get information from the medical profession then, and not getting anywhere – they weren’t getting any answers. They formed a parent group, and the charity grew out of that. We’re still based in Stroud, and we’ve stayed true to our roots. The chap who did start the charity is our executive founder, so he’s still involved. He lost a son 32 years ago now.
PB: How terribly sad.
AO: The sculpture here, that’s going into the wall, that doesn’t come out, that’s Gareth – he was 16, at boarding school, playing rugby, came off the rugby pitch, and his parents got a phone call, and he was gone.
PB: Terrifying, isn’t it.
Other links and articles that may interest you…..
To visit Meningitis Now’s website, please click here.
To see more photographs from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, please click here.
To see the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists, and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2016, please click here.
For gardening advice for mid-July to mid-August, please click here.
For gardening advice for mid-August to mid-September, please click here.
To see photographs of the Queen of Orchids, the largest known orchid species, please click here.
For information on how to help hedgehogs, please click here.
To read about the Rose of the Year Competition and The Festival of Roses, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.
To read about beautiful, edible plants to grow in your garden, please click here.