We've been working with Blind Veterans UK for 4 years, ever since we were asked to help them with a new Woodland Centenary Garden at their newest centre in Llandudno. This garden went on to win 2 Britain in Bloom Awards and special mention as an 'outstanding neighbourhood garden'. We have also helped the charity in a joint collaboration with Blesma, the veterans limbless charity.
One thing we've always picked up is the amazing community of veteran members, their families, volunteers and staff that we felt part of and we wanted to celebrate this in a garden that looks forward showing some of the activities that members take part in. This community garden demonstrates how Blind Veterans UK can bring people together; how we can train and rehabilitate; highlighting the skills building that is important for the future; all with youthful energy and fun.
From the garden entrance you will be able to walk through a willow artwork by Tom Hare. This willow sculpture embraces the whole garden threading through the space like a vine, reflecting how everyone and everything works together as one community. The Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace, the oldest vine in Britain, was once maintained by blind veterans after WW1.
The ‘village square’ is where beneficiaries, volunteers and staff can meet and take part in activities. There are places for crafts, for just hanging out under the trees, working in the workshop, or gardening in the productive garden. An orchard will provide fruit and a pictorial meadow planting provides ideal space for guide dogs. In other spaces ornamental plants enclose and embrace the space with trees and particulary a high summer interest.
When you visit a garden show the planting design is always the element that visitors are most interested in. This is especially true of Hampton Court which attracts some very keen gardeners and plant collectors. This year we are celebrating the work of Blind Veterans UK with a community garden for the members, their families, staff and volunteers. It is for passive and active enjoyment and will be relocated after the show to their centre in Brighton.
The charity’s work for over 100 years, supporting blind and partially sighted ex-military personnel (the members) and their families is inspirational; helping members to regain their independence through activities and training. But we wanted to celebrate the whole community whilst making sure that we were maximising the potential for blind members to enjoy the garden.
This is especially important in the planting design and with 4 years experience working with the charity we have come to gain an understanding of the key factors to remember when designing with plants. Here are some ideas if you're planting a garden for a vision impaired person.
1. Remember that vision impairment can still mean that people might be able to have some vision. Often this is in the form of colour and we've found that contrasting colours, especially yellow against blue or red is often seen.
2. But you need to be bold with the colour and use bright blocks, so avoid the delicate meadow look and bring in big sweeps of the same flower or mix red and yellow varieties of the same species such as red and yellow Crocosmia.
3. Fragrance is a big factor in all gardens but be bold again and let one scent predominate so that a vision impaired person recognises where they are from the fragrance.
4. Texture is also good and don't forget bark as much as foliage. Were using the paperbark maple Acer griseum which has a great textured bark as will the Liquidambar and Acer davidii. Fruit trees also give an opportunity to experience the tree through touch.
5. Sound is a harder one as sounds can be confusing so whilst the sounds of say the wind through bamboo is great, it may be less useful in a garden than colour or fragrance.
6. We're also creating a kitchen garden which also gives some opportunity for taste as well!
If you come to the show please pick up a leaflet and see what we've used to plant the garden for some summer inspiration.