The Stephen Hawking Garden for Motor Neurone Disease
Designed by Sue Hayward
James Alexander-Sinclair takes us on a tour of Sue Hayward's show garden, a Bronze Medal Winner at this year's Chelsea.
The aim of the garden is to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and help towards the ultimate goal - a cure for the disease. The inspiration for this garden is taken from MND sufferer Stephen Hawking's book, 'A Brief History of Time.'
Sue explains “Martin Anderson, one of the founding members of the charity, read Hawking’s book, and commissioned me to make a garden based on it and the links with Motor Neurone Disease.”
Many of the elements within the garden are symbolic, having a subtle meaning in portraying the overall journey that a sufferer of MND takes and the work that the charity does to support and offer hope.
The planting itself is a journey through time from ancient cycads to higher flowering plants, cultivated edibles and herbs. It's a sort of ticking, growing clock, a time line progressing around the garden to the present day and developing into the future. A future where the ripening grapes and olives will be effected by climate change.
Creating an atmosphere of pre-history, a range of plants including Ginkgo biloba, club moss, equisetums, tree ferns, ancient Magnolia kobus and the near extinct Wollemi pine, create a paleo-botanist’s dream. A bog garden contains moisture-loving plants, mosses and ferns. The change in planting through more colourful flowering plants to cultivated medicinal plants such as lavender, thyme, sage, citrus and pomegranate represents the passage of time.
Three landscaping elements; a beautiful clock sculpture, a water feature and circular stone wall all draw directly from Hawkins book - though all are significant in the context of MND too. Water cascades from a rock into a dark swirling pool and represents the spiralling journey of light entering a black hole. There is no escape, analogous to the initial diagnosis of MND. The circular central wall encloses a place of safety and symbolises the support of the charity.
“A clock has been designed specifically for the garden,' says Sue. 'It’s in bronze with copper verdigris hands and will have real ivy growing through it”.
What will happen to the garden after the show?
The garden will be dismantled at the end of the show, the stone will be returned to the supplier and the plants and other materials to be sold off, the money going to the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) association.
This garden has been awarded a Bronze medal by the RHS.