Pro Landscaper had the pleasure of visiting The Children with Cancer UK: Mr. Happy, Mr. Worry Hill garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. We speak with Emma Reed and Chris Wellbelove, the designer and contractor of the garden respectively, as well as Dhivya O’Connor, chief executive of Children with Cancer UK to find out more about the garden’s inspiration, challenges with its construction and the charity’s amazing work.
To explain the vital work the charity does for child cancer patients, Dhivya says: “Children with Cancer UK are dedicated to raising and investing funds into scientific research into childhood cancers.
“Over the past 30 years we have raised over £220m, which goes into funding research and treatments to improve survival rates and quality of survival in young cancer patients, as well as to find ways to prevent cancer forming in children.”
Shockingly, out of the billions donated to cancer charities, a mere 3% of this is given to children’s charities. “As cancer manifests itself in children very differently to the way it does in adults, our organisation plays a vital part in developing more effective ways to treat various strains of childhood cancer,” Dhivya explains.
“Our vision is a world where no child dies of cancer.”
Designed by landscape architect Emma Reed, from Reed Studio, The Children with Cancer UK: Mr. Happy, Mr. Worry Hill garden was her first time designing at Hampton Court.
“Children with Cancer UK and Mr Men & Little Miss have an affiliation with one another, and this garden was built in celebration of the charity’s 30th anniversary with characters providing a fun element,” Emma tells us.
“Chris and I put together a proposal from the brief, which was something fun, nostalgic and enticing for children. We wanted to explore all of the different emotions that children and their families go through when they’re living with cancer.”
The design inspiration was further aided by the input from a clinical psychologist that specialises in child illness, whose insight helped Emma grasp the emotions of a child diagnosed with cancer. This led to the selection of the two characters, Mr. Happy and Mr. Worry which were incorporated into the garden.
“The side using Mr. Worry represents the devastation of diagnosis, frustrations of living with new life restrictions and the distress of treatment,” Emma says. “This part of the garden included the Mr. Worry house on top of the hill, an assortment of blue flowers and a water fall feature to represent a child’s tears.”
“Mr Happy represents the joy of reaching the end of treatment, spending time together with family and getting back into the normal swing of life.”
The way Emma chose to show the positivity on this side was through bright planting and the Mr Happy house. “Inside this side of the hill there is an interactive game and a bell that represents the end of treatment, encompassing Children with Cancer UK’s new logo of a child ringing the end of cancer treatment bell,” Emma explains.
Being such an unconventionally shaped garden presented a great many challenges to the team working on the garden. “At the beginning of the year there was a lot of steel work done off site,” Chris Wellbelove, director at Blakedown Landscapes explains. “The timber work and the interior of the hill were highly challenging, but we’re very happy with the end result, especially considering that the garden is nothing like anything we’ve done before.”
When asked about any specific elements of the garden that proved difficult, Chris said: “Installing the water feature on a curved structure was quite the challenge, though the great construction by Yorkshire based Fountains and Features really helped.”
Elevating turf and planting to surround the hill proved a little troublesome, especially in the relentless heat of the show. “Trying to build something that allows us to sustain the turf and plants on such an unusual shape was adverse as the soil was very thin. Our solution was to use matting to hold the water and retain fluid for the plants to flourish.”
Summarising his emotions on the finished garden, Chris tells Pro Landscaper: “It breaks a lot of tradition in terms of what you’d expect to see from a show garden, and I think it is just brilliant.”
Emma chimed in with her concluding thoughts on the project by saying: “I’m so proud that we managed to meet the brief of the garden and create something that has really captured people and helped spread the crucial message of this charity.”
Sharing her feelings towards the charity’s first work within horticulture, Dhivya tells us: “We think this garden has been a brilliant way to landmark our 30-year anniversary and we’re just thrilled to have received the positive feedback from everyone who’s come to see us.”
You can donate to Children with Cancer UK by clicking here.