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Designer behind Chelsea’s World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden hopes to “evoke discussion”

by | 15 Feb 24 | Garden Design, Long Reads

Feeling a strong connection to the charitable works of World Child Cancer UK, landscape designer, horticulturist, and gardener, Giulio Giorgi has teamed up with those who work tirelessly to create a world where every child with cancer has the best possible chance of survival to create a garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

“Together we had a common vision of what a garden for children who are undergoing cancer treatment should be, so I was delighted to be commissioned to create a conceptual garden plan that reflected the needs of the communities they support in low and middle-income countries, with a focus on designing a space that offered solace and joy to children with cancer through immersive nature experiences,” says Giorgi.

After presenting the garden proposal to Project Giving Back, Giorgi was thrilled that they been granted with sponsorship and could take the design to Chelsea as a Sanctuary Garden.

Giorgi created a space that provides an immersive garden experience combined with sustainable design features. “Not only does it interpret their charity efforts of increasing child cancer survival rates in the 10 low to middle-income countries they work in but it’s also an opportunity to showcase how a garden can support the emotional wellbeing of children undergoing cancer treatment.”

Drawn to the fact all Project Giving Back funded gardens are permanently relocated for long-term usage straight after the show, Giorgi took the chance to experiment with testing different ideas of how a garden could be designed and built in a simpler, more sustainable way with a focus on minimal waste, breakage and manpower.

The project has now evolved into a bespoke modular system without the need for mortar, meaning that it can be easily broken down after the show, be transported to another location and rebuilt with minimal breakage and waste.

Located close to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, CLIC House was the first UK-based purpose-built home to open as one of the Young Lives vs Cancer charity ‘Homes from Homes’ that are offered to families so they can stay together whilst their child is undergoing cancer treatment and will become home to this Chelsea show garden.

The core theme of the World Child Cancer’s Nurturing Garden will be a sensory haven to bring joy, hope and escapism through nature for children undergoing cancer treatment, no matter where they live in the world.

The different-sized circular raised beds inspired by keyhole gardens also reflect some of the communities supported by World Child Cancer UK which have limited access to water. Keyhole gardens are originally seen in sub-Saharan Africa and are renowned for successfully growing vegetables and crops on their dry, exposed and compacted soils.

These raised beds will be made from perforated clay blocks that Giorgi has designed himself to offer different sensory experiences through a range of soft-touch plants, fragrant herbs, and vibrant mosses, whilst the planting scheme in the lower raised beds cultivates edible plants for children to explore.

“I hope the design and plant choices in the ‘World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden’ will evoke discussion, learning and good practice solutions that can be applied to landscapes that are challenged with drought, soil erosion and nutrient depletion,” says Giorgi.

Giorgi hopes that the garden will show visitors at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show how good practices such as the sustainable “ollas’ water system, as well as the importance of good practice soil preparation in the raised bed design will help with drainage and aeration.

During the design process Giorgi collaborated closely with World Child Cancer UK to understand the needs and vision of their global partners and communities in the 10 countries where they support children with cancer. The conversations gave an insight into the charity’s holistic care approach they take alongside the clinical treatment they offer. Focusing on nurturing, play, connection and rest for each child, this garden is designed around those core care approaches.

“We hope each visitor to the garden will find emotional upliftment in its crafted features and planting scheme. I designed it to nurture a connection between children and the natural world, inspiring them to develop a lifelong, meaningful relationship with nature.

“World Child Cancer UK recognise the emotional wellbeing and joy that children will get from interacting with this sensory outdoor environment with the hope it will encourage children to carry this connection into their adult lives,” says Giorgi.

Making his Chelsea debut this year, Giorgi says it is an honour to be learning the process as an international designer.

“Chelsea is renowned for being a show that inspires gardeners to discover new ideas in garden design and I hope the ‘World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden’ will allow others to engage in conversations about simpler, sustainable garden practices, innovatively crafted features within schemes, the use of local materials and sensory planting schemes that will uplift and bring joy to those that will experience it,” says Giorgi.


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