The Guide Dogs 90th Anniversary Garden uses sculptures, planting and a changing pathway to illustrate the journey that somebody with sight loss takes, from fear and isolation to a life of enrichment and independence. It's been designed to be enjoyed by people with sight loss by using flower arrangements in vivid blocks of colour, and uses different textures, sounds, smells and even tastes, with fruit trees and a trickling stream. It was created by veteran Chelsea designers Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith.
Guide Dogs’ history is a main feature of the garden. The first four guide dog owners in Britain were veterans of the First World War, likely blinded in the trenches by the effects of mustard gas. To remember this story, two metal sculptures can be seen in the garden. The first is a veteran in the corner hollow, looking very sad and feeling lost; he is made of rusted barbed wire and has his head in his hands. The second is our veteran again, but this time with his German Shepherd by his side. He is made of shiny metal and is upright and purposeful beside a wooden sign that reads ‘Living the life I choose’.
The Guide Dogs garden has been warmly-received at the show, with lots of media interest, celebrity support and even a royal visit.
On Monday 20 September, the Earl and Countess of Wessex toured the garden, meeting one of the garden designers, Jonathan Smith, and Guide Dogs’ own Siobhan Meade, along with her guide dog Marty. Sophie Wessex is Guide Dogs’ new patron, and she was so engaged with hearing about the research and work that had gone into the garden’s creation.
Two guide dog puppies, Flash and especially-named Chelsea, have been at the show to promote the garden and draw in celebrity guests. Monty Don, who has a famous love of golden retrievers, even picked up 18-week-old Chelsea for a kiss and a cuddle. Labrador Flash, who was named after one of our first four guide dogs, made firm friends with BBC Breakfast’s Carol Kirkwood, despite having toppled her over on live television after she presented the Monday morning weather report.
The Guide Dogs 90th Anniversary Garden has been awarded a silver medal by the RHS, and voting in the People’s Choice Award is now open.