Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden by Katherine Holland

Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden by Katherine Holland

Gold Medal Winner

Artisans of Devizes has a special connection with the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show at The Royal Hospital Grounds, Chelsea. Not only is our stone at the heart of the garden, but designer Katherine Holland grew up in our home county of Wiltshire. ‘I’ve known about Artisans of Devizes for as long as I can remember,’ she explains. ‘It is quite fitting that I am using their stone. They’re a family company that has been so supportive of me.’

The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden plays an important role as it aims to raise awareness about the invaluable bereavement support services that Sue Ryder offers. These include free online counselling sessions and an online bereavement community, as well as Grief Guide, an online platform providing people with expert information, advice and tools to help them understand their bereavement and feelings. 

Sue Ryder also has Grief Kind spaces located throughout the UK. Trained bereavement volunteers are on hand at each one and people are encouraged to drop in and talk about their grief. The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show builds on this initiative by taking those conversations outdoors, due to the many positive benefits to being surrounded by the beauty of nature. 

‘The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden is designed to provide a safe and peaceful sanctuary in which to sit and be enveloped in the beauty of nature, while encouraging visitors to share their experiences of grief or to take a moment for quiet reflection,’ explains Katherine. She has drawn on her own experience of grief to emulate the type of green space she needed when she was bereaved. The plants have been specially layered and designed to be higher at the back and the sides so that visitors feel safe. ‘There’s a sense of shelter and the view towards the front is much lower,’ explains Katherine. ‘It’s quite a natural, evolutionary thing, but you feel safe when you feel you’re protected.’ The garden’s forever home after the show is at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, in Bedford, where the garden will be positioned overlooking the beautiful countryside.

At the garden’s heart is a welcoming seating area with sculptural Caneline teak chairs set around a bespoke coffee table that features a display of personal objects symbolising loved ones who have died, and this emphasises the importance of starting conversations around grief with others. 

To ensure year-round interest, the garden contains a carefully selected range of perennial sensory plants and unusual specimen trees. ‘I wanted to reflect what the end users would need from a space, so I picked the plants for their different sensory properties to try and make it inclusive,’ explains Katherine.

Textural plants have been chosen, such as a multi-stemmed form of Tilia henryana  attila henryana, a tree with soft frilly tactile leaves and fragrant flowers. Other aromatic plants such as Nepeta are showcased, as well as pollinating plants, ensuring that there is the hum of insects. Colour is used in a subtle soothing way with pops of pink, red and yellow.

Because the garden will be relocated to Bedfordshire, the county’s historic lace production has influenced the selection of plants and trees. Molopospermum peloponnesiacum (striped hemlock) with its delicate lace-like leaves and Frangula alnus (Rhamnus ‘Aspleniifolia’) with its fine filigree foliage are classic examples. 

In addition, lace production has influenced the design of the stone paving, with some of the organic shapes from the Midlands ‘Bud’ lace’ incorporated. ‘What I really liked about the Artisan’s Linton sandstone is that it has subtle variations in it and the grey colour reminds me of antique lace,’ says Katherine. ‘In addition, it’s a Yorkshire sandstone, so a more sustainable material choice. I wanted to use an offcut of a different stone and repurpose something that wasn’t needed for another project, so I’ve used Kimmeridge limestone offcuts as an insert, which cuts through the garden like a thread lace detail.’

Chelsea Flower Show takes place 21 – 25 May 2023 at The Royal Hospital Grounds, Chelsea

April 30, 2024