‘Flower Power’ helps raise awareness of Crohn’s Disease at major gardening event

03 May 2017

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A Crohn’s Disease inspired garden called ‘Facing Fear: Finding Hope in support of Crohn’s and Colitis UK’ will be on display at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Show Tatton Park from 20-23 July 2017. 

In 2016, The Royal Horticultural Society revealed that people in their 30s and 40s were a ‘lost generation’ of gardeners – Baby Boomer parents hadn’t passed on the skills, and gardens were now be decked rather than nurtured.  But as shadows lengthened over Chelsea last year, a solitary figure shimmered into our view - with garden trowel in hand - and brought with them a devotion for the sheer joy and promise of gardening that is certain to bring inspiration to Generation X and Y.

Denise Shields – the one with the trowel - has achieved something we had previously been unable to realise visually - the confusion, pain and loneliness of living with a chronic condition but with a pleasing peek towards hope and a welcoming place to retreat.

The idea for the Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity garden was conceived by Denise in October 2015. The passionate amateur gardener has experienced, first-hand, the devastating effects of Crohn’s Disease. At the age of 13, Denise’s son Callum was diagnosed with the disease, and in 2013 at the age of 23 he had a severe relapse of the condition which nearly cost him his life, changing his life forever. It took Callum two years to fully enter remission, and during this time, the charity was able to provide support for him. Denise was inspired by the bravery and resilience shown by her son in the face of his debilitating disease, so she wanted to do something positive to help him and all those people who are affected by these dreadful conditions.

I’m a passionate gardener, and had this bonkers idea that I’d like to build a garden and do it for charity. 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 ‘okay’ 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

Denise Shields

The 77sq m garden has been designed by Rory Tompsett and Peter Hulland working with Denise, to share the story of an individual’s emotional journey through illness and remission. The journey begins in Facing Fear, an uninviting place. The confusion, loneliness and turbulence an individual can suffer when their condition erupts are symbolised by the steel pergola, angular path and bubbling pool while the sensations of fear and pain are represented by the dark colour and texture of the planting. When exhaustion becomes overwhelming, the bespoke redwood chair provides a welcome place to retreat. Steps, drawing the visitor downward into Finding Hope represented by a bright sunken area, reflect the transition towards better health. This is a happy place, where improved well-being and confidence are illustrated by the attractive, colourful planting and gently flowing water, which raises the spirits. A formal hedge, denoting an inner boundary is a reminder that Crohn’s Disease has no known cure and those diagnosed have to learn to manage the disease. This ambiguity is emphasised by the specially commissioned stainless steel sculpture.

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"

Callum Shields,
Diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2003

Almost all of the items seen in the garden are for sale. In particular, the specially commissioned sculptures, seat, water wall and pergola are open to offers (photographs available). Crohn’s and Colitis UK will receive all the proceeds.

To discuss any item, please contact Denise Shields (Project Manager and Main Fundraiser). 

Find out more