Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our most requested plant from the Combat Stress Therapeutic Garden

Well, I could hardly leave our most requested plant identification off the website. It was Francoa sonchifolia 'Rogersons Form'. A lovely frost-hardy perennial that has stunning spires of pink flowers about a metre high that last from summer to early autumn. We planted it around the base of the multi-stemmed sorbus and the pink flowers set off the pinky bronze trunks quite beautifully.

A new home

The hardest part of The Show was dismantling the Combat Stress garden. I suddenly realised that like Topsy the number of plants had grown - hugely. I think that I worked out that there were over 1500! And of course, unlike most other show gardens these plants had all been bought and paid for by our incredibly generous donors and needed to be moved, carefully, to their new home at Tyrwhitt House, Leatherhead. So several days, man (and woman) hours later we ensconced them all in their wonderful new home. The plants will stay in their holding beds until the work at Tyrwhitt has finished and we can finish designing the courtyard garden - hopefully in March 2011.

They are all being carefully protected with high metal panel fencing around the outside to keep out deer, and then an inner tape of electric fence, low to the ground, to keep out whatever enterprising rabbits may be thinking about an extra bit of lunch.

And none of this move would have been possible without the help of 'Bones', Hazel, Mike, Vince, Roger, Chris and Carl, who have been amazingly hard working, supportive and constantly upbeat even when they must have wondered how many more plants were going to come off the lorry! Thank you.


To say that the last few months have been hectic is an understatement. The Show (have to use capital letters here) was exhilarating, heartbreaking, exhausting, hot, fun and fulfilling. The press coverage we received was extraordinary and the garden was, if I am correct, one of the most requested destinations at Hampton Court. We had over 18,000 people through the garden. And it stood up to it. The resin-bound pathways (courtesy of Cirencester Civil Engineering) were an unmitigated success; we walked on them in high heels, flat shoes, clogs, sandals and bare feet and at the end of each day they looked fine.

We carried out a declared war against pigeons who did nothing but gorge themselves on the amelenchier berries (up to 6 on one tree) but at least we were not attacked by paraqueets! The weather was so hot we watered continuously, but by the end of the week the plants were looking even better than when they went in - in particular the echinacea which looked stunning.

However, without doubt the most fantastic part of the whole show was the feedback we received. It was outstanding. We had serving soldiers, ex-service personnel, wives, sisters, fathers, brothers, husbands and wives of those who had been out or still were in Afghanistan, in Iraq; those who had seen and felt the horrors of the Falklands and Northern Ireland, to name but a few places. Some having walked through the garden were in tears, others just silent, and some simply smiled and said 'thank you for doing this'. But what really overwhelmed me were that so many of the public had absolutely no idea of what PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is or does. And that includes those whom I would politely term 'the older generation', although describing PTSD as 'shell shock' garnered some understanding. Perhaps I am just naive having lived with the understanding of what PTSD does to so many ordinary people who suffer from it as a result of either an accident or work. PTSD is horrific and it is not just the person who suffers, but the whole family. I think though, and this may be contentious that in some instances PTSD is used inappropriately and can be used to cover a raft of different types of shock. I also feel that using the same words to describe what happens to service personnel and civilians does not do the sufferers (in either instance) justice. Service personnel are taught to cope with extreme situations in a way that civilians are not. They are highly trained, highly motivated, and work as a team; they expect to see and be in distressing situations as part of their work. They have different priorities and different ways of dealing with events that would leave most of us civilians completely immobile. PTSD suffered as a result of war time operations, should I think be given another name.