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Bio-based building material to be introduced at RHS Chelsea 2021

A garden, originally intended to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale in 2020, will be built by award-winning landscape company Bowles & Wyer and unveiled at RHS Chelsea 2021 to celebrate the importance of nursing in the 21st century.

Sponsored by the Burdett Trust for Nursing and created by designer Robert Myers, The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Nursing will see Bowles & Wyer introduce innovative bio-based building materials to create an imagined hospital garden, inspired by Florence Nightingale’s pioneering views on nursing, at a time when the global spotlight is centred on health and well-being.

The bio-based timber being used in the construction is a 21st century representation of key materials that Florence Nightingale advocated for hospital construction in her work promoting the benefits of hospital environment on patient recovery.

Work has already begun on the construction of a large 60ft timber pergola, that will stretch the length of the garden and enclose it on three sides to form the central feature of the courtyard garden. It has been built using cross-laminated timber (CLT) – an engineered wood that has become known as the ‘concrete of the future’ due to its potential as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials.

The low-impact, non-toxic timber, made from honey-coloured Douglas Fir, has been constructed in modular parts and is ready to be transported to the showground in September. Pre-cambered rods and tubes will support the timber, reducing the need for steel to a bare minimum and allowing for easy relocation at the end of the show.

Model of the 60-ft timber pergola

Dan Riddleston, managing director at Bowles & Wyer, said: “The irony that a worldwide pandemic should be the reason a garden celebrating the founder of modern-day nursing was cancelled in 2020, is not lost on us. Having progressed so far with the development of this garden in the last year we are now delighted to have the opportunity to finally bring it to the Chelsea showground.”

There is a lovely synergy between the modern materials and techniques we are using to build the garden and Florence Nightingale’s own advocacy of modern materials to ensure healthy environments in the hospitals she inspired.”

We are constantly looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint, particularly at Chelsea where the gardens are often transitory, and the use of CLT means that the pergola can be constructed very quickly, will require minimal transport and will create very little waste. Added to that, the trees used in the production of CLT actually absorb carbon, thereby off-setting the carbon produced through its manufacture.”

Surrounding the pergola, perimeter walls will reference the ‘pavilion’ hospital layouts advocated by Florence Nightingale and a striking installation at the front of the garden will also display the recently redesigned Nightingale Nurse badge, denoting both her enduring legacy and her ability to inspire the next generation of nurses.

Approximately 3,700 plants will be planted in the garden as part of a new autumn planting palette for the September show.  Trees, hedges and shrubs already reserved have been overseen by Deepdale Trees in the last year, while other plants have been sourced by Hortus Loci for the 2021 garden.

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