This week we are in Hythe in Southampton to transform a garden for four-year-old Isabelle Cooper. She is an incredible little girl who has a real zest for life, but unfortunately she was born with a very rare eye condition called LCA – an inherited degenerative eye disease which means it’s very likely she’ll be completely blind by the age of 10. On a vision scale of one to sixty – sixty being the best – little Isabelle’s sight is just one.
She has almost no vision at all but can see bright light and some colours. The plan was to build her a garden she can grow with – it had to be fun and safe but we also needed to make it challenging and interactive. We packed the garden full of sensory elements, scented plants, herbs, textures, and fun with a play area full of music and colour.
It was key that Isabelle could enjoy and familiarise herself with her new garden, so when she loses her sight, she will still be independent in her own outdoor surroundings. The garden was also to be a training ground for the next steps in Isabelle’s life. The world isn’t flat, so the garden needed to offer a challenge, but also be fully interactive and educational – but above all, it had to be fun!
Alan had set us a tall order for this incredible little girl and on my list of jobs was the wigwam! YAY!
These are a few of the plants we used.
Achillea: Lovely flat plates of flowers in some stunning colours. We used an orange flowering variety ‘Terracotta’ to great effect in our hot border. If you have clay soil add some grit to the planting hole – it also needs a fair amount of sun. The taller varieties may need staking.
Kniphofia are to a border what a trumpet is to an orchestra – you can’t miss them! They add real punch and fun to a scheme. They will cope in really free draining soil and like lots of sunshine.
Phlox really rank high in the perfume stakes – keep moist in spring to reduce the chances of them suffering with mildew in the summer, and plant mid-border so you can get something in front of them to hide what can be tatty foliage later in the year.
Crocosmia is a fuss-free plant and great for using in a hot border or an exotic scheme. Its flowers look almost tropical against its vivid green foliage. It likes moist but well drained soil and will cope in full sun or partial shade.
Perovskia likes free draining soil and lots of sun. I think it looks particularly good when planted in big groups of three or more – the blue makes such an impact and contrasts perfectly with hot colours like orange.
Pittosphorum is an evergreen shrub with slender stems and pretty leaves. It can be clipped and will grow well in well-drained soil. Some varieties are not frost hardy so always check the label.
Bay or Laurus nobilis is evergreen and can be used in containers as topiary, grown as a hedge or a specimen tree. It has aromatic leaves that can be used in cooking and is generally low maintenance.
Echinacea has gorgeous daisy-like flowers which are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Leave to form large clumps for best effect, and dead head throughout the summer to encourage more blooms.