Robert returns to RHS Chelsea after seven years
Robert is returning to RHS Chelsea this year, after a seven-year absence, with a show garden marking the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and celebrating the importance of the nursing profession in the 21st century.
The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Nursing depicts a courtyard garden for a new hospital, enclosed on three sides by a sculptural timber pergola and surrounded by imagined perimeter rooms that evoke the ‘pavilion’ hospital layouts proposed by the nursing pioneer.
The restorative garden has been designed for viewing from inside the building, as well as for sitting in and strolling through with shaded places to rest among naturalistic planting and a reflecting pool to engage the senses. The centre of the garden will feature mounded ornamental beds, to create privacy, and a stylised woodland glade offering sun and dappled shade.
“The theme of the garden is ‘nurture through nature’, inspired by the idea that the shortest road to recovery leads through a garden,” Robert said. “The garden celebrates Florence Nightingale’s contribution to modern-day nursing using architectural design and modern, sustainable materials to represent her enduring reforms in hospital construction and vibrant planting to highlight the importance of green spaces for health and recovery. It has been a wonderful challenge and reflects my passion for creating contemporary landscapes in historically and culturally significant contexts.”
The garden will evoke key elements of Florence Nightingale’s life; a reflecting pool will reference her insights into drainage and cleanliness and the plants in the garden will include some found in her own pressed flower collection as well as plants with strong medicinal properties which were used in the 19th century. In addition, ghostly images of Florence will be seen on two ‘windows’, while images from her pressed flower collection and echoes of her handwriting will appear to be inscribed onto the timber perimeter walls to embody her extensive writing in support of healthcare reform.
Shirley Baines, Chief Executive of the Burdett Trust for Nursing which is sponsoring the garden, said: “As the architect of the modern hospital, Florence Nightingale recognised that the hospital environment had a strong influence on patient outcomes. While she understood the importance of fresh air, sunlight and green spaces to wellbeing and recovery, she also recognised the significance of the architectural design and materials used in hospital construction. We are delighted that Robert has so successfully encapsulated all of these important elements into our Chelsea garden through its contemporary design, considered planting and modern sustainable materials.”