A Hawarden mum is celebrating after a garden inspired by her son’s illness won two awards at a major gardening event.
The idea for the Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity garden, which recently won both a Gold Medal and the People’s Choice award at the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show at Tatton Park, was conceived by Denise Shields in October, 2015.
The passionate amateur gardener has experienced first-hand the devastating effects of Crohn’s Disease. Denise’s son Callum was diagnosed with the disease aged 13, and in 2013 at the age of 23 he had a severe relapse of the condition which nearly cost him his life.
Denise, 60, was inspired by the bravery and resilience shown by her son in the face of his debilitating disease to do something positive to help him and all those people who are affected by these dreadful conditions.
Crohn’s Disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut and is a chronic condition, meaning that it is ongoing and lifelong.
More than 300,000 people in the UK are affected by inflammatory bowel disease with someone being diagnosed every 30 minutes.
“I’m a passionate gardener and had this bonkers idea that I’d like to build a garden and do it for charity,” said Denise.
“With my son Callum being so unwell, his bravery and resilience inspired me and I wanted to give something back.
“It has been a challenge to get the garden into production, but I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of sponsors and people wanting to support the garden.
“Crohn’s Disease is often viewed as an invisible illness, while a person might look OK on the outside, they may be in a daily battle with a serious medical condition. I felt it was important to raise awareness of this debilitating condition and represent what it is like with such an unpredictable illness.”
The 77sq m garden was designed by Rory Tompsett of Chester-based Actual Landscapes and Peter Hulland working with Denise, to share the story of an individual’s emotional journey through illness and remission.
A steel pergola, angular path and bubbling pool symbolised the confusion, loneliness and turbulence an individual can suffer while the sensations of fear and pain were represented by the dark colour and texture of the planting.
Other features included steps, drawing the visitor downward into a bright sunken area, reflecting the transition towards better health and a formal hedge, denoting acting as a reminder that Crohn’s Disease has no known cure and those diagnosed have to learn to manage the disease.
“I can say without a doubt that some people became very emotional as they walked through the garden,” said Denise. “They could link it with their own experiences of illness.”
Running at Tatton Park estate near Knutsford in Cheshire between July 19-23, the floral extravaganza, known as the Garden Party of the North, is renowned for its incredible floral displays and gardens, with gardeners competing to win the coveted RHS Gold medal for their efforts.
“I’m incredibly proud and overwhelmed that we won both awards,” said Denise, who estimates that the garden has raised around £10,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. “We’d never worked together so it was an incredible achievement.
“The awareness this garden has generated for the charity and the lives it has touched, are completely immeasurable. It has touched so many peoples lives, and will continue to long after the garden has gone.
“It was an amazing few days, even though we had a few traumas with the rain, and it was all made possible by our amazing sponsors and partners.”
As for the man who inspired the garden, Callum, who is now in remission from the condition, was as proud of his mum as she was of him.
“I am very happy to be the inspiration for the garden design, and proud of my mum’s determination to make the project a success,” he added.
See full story in the Chester Leader