Today, we’ve invited RHS member and long-time Chelsea Flower Show fan, Debbie Griffiths, to give a visitor’s perspective of the SeeAbility Garden in a guest blog.
I’ve been going to the Chelsea Flower Show for 15 years and love going on the first members-only day when the flowers are still at their best. Once upon a time, members’ days seemed to be less busy, but I’m not so sure any more.
I introduced a friend to Chelsea a few years back and she couldn’t believe it when I route-marched us all to the entrance for 8am. But by 10am, when the crowds were packed six deep in Main Avenue, she understood why.
For me, the atmosphere on the route parallel to the Royal Hospital Chelsea – behind the floral pavilion – is much nicer. It’s less chaotic and you can always get good photos of the gardens. Fortunately, that’s where the SeeAbility Garden is located.
When I read something – whether it’s a novel or a blog about a garden – I always build a picture of a person or place in my mind’s eye. Sometimes it can lead to disappointment – e.g. when an actor gets cast in a film version of a book and he isn’t how you imagined the character. But 9 times out of 10, the gardens at Chelsea are always much better in real life than I pictured them from their brochure descriptions and sketches. The same can definitely be said for The SeeAbility Garden.
I think the way Darren Hawkes has created the iris of an eye from slate on its side is both subtle and stunning. In fact, the garden as a whole is simply beautiful, regardless of whether you know what it’s supposed to symbolise.
A couple of my relatives have got macular degeneration. I’d never heard of it until this year, let alone understood the effect it has on their vision. Using the clever little tool on SeeAbility’s website, I discovered it causes blind spots.
The designer’s been equally creative in using a curtain of steel spheres to represent the condition. Adding water to this is genius (a) because it looks fabulous and (b) because it represents another sight condition – diabetic retinopathy – something my diabetic mum gets checked over for each year with a special eye test.
I think it’s great that charities exhibit at garden shows as they can reach and inform an audience, like my relatives, who don’t go online. Chris Beardshaw’s garden for Arthritis Research is another good example and conveniently next door to SeeAbility’s.
Apparently it’s also National Epilepsy and Dementia Awareness Week – they should have been here, along with NSPCC and Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebale. They’ve all been getting a lot of attention.
So that’s it for me for another year. It’s a shame I’m not here on Saturday as SeeAbility are taking part in the plant sell off.
Overall, I’ve been really impressed with The SeeAbility Garden and I know who I’ll be voting for in the RHS People’s Choice Awards.