Do you know 15 people?
1 in 15 people have diabetes in the UK.
That's 4.7 million people, enough to fill Wembley Stadium more than 52 times over!
Having watched loved ones struggle with the condition we wanted to raise awareness of diabetes, a very misunderstood condition and being Garden Designers the obvious way to do that was to design a garden.
‘Diabetes affects more people than all cancers and dementia combined. BUT only 17% of people think diabetes is serious.’
We have both been touched by the condition - Karen's step-daughter recently battled severe illness with complications due to her Type 1 diabetes, while Katherine's father was diagnosed with Type 2 later in life.
The RHS Malvern Spring Festival attracts over 100,000 visitors and is televised to an audience of over 6 million viewers and so we decided to create a Show Garden in support of Diabetes UK. We hope this garden will be a thought provoking and innovative way to encourage people to think about diabetes.
Diabetes UK 'fight for a world where diabetes can do no harm' and provide support for anyone affected by diabetes. Along with us, Diabetes UK volunteers will be on hand at the garden throughout the show to talk to visitors.
The garden ...
The garden is designed to represent the journey from diagnosis through to managing the condition well. A path which is at first dark, narrow and difficult to navigate, becomes brighter, wider and easier. The planting along it graduates from dark plums and purples through to lighter hues of blues and whites.
Structural graphs represent the continual need to monitor blood sugar levels in the management of diabetes and a water feature is used to symbolise the frequency of diagnosis.
‘Someone in the UK is diagnosed with diabetes every two minutes.’
The fund raising ...
We have worked tirelessly to raise the funding we need to make this project happen - over £50,000 worth - mainly through contributions in kind and with donations and grants. This has meant persuading people to build our garden with us, give us building materials for free, lend us a small fleet of trucks and vans, free equipment hire, free paving, lend us garden furniture, not to mention the contribution of a whole load of custom made metal work.
We now only need another £2,500 to get us over the line!
£2,500 will allow us to buy the very last of the plants for this incredibly special garden. The plants are the heroes of the design - without them there will be no Show Garden and we need 700 of them!
The end is in sight ... we are so close ... please help us to get there!
'More than 500 people with diabetes die prematurely every week.'
Please help us to raise awareness of diabetes!
Emma's Story ...
Emma was 18 when she was diagnosed with diabetes.
A trip to A&E, feeling very unwell, ended up with her being admitted to hospital as an emergency, with dangerously high blood sugar and ketone levels and being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Emma says: “It was a real shock. I was just about to leave home and go to university. I got to grips with the biology of it all quite quickly and I understood the basics about carbs and insulin – but there were so many other variables I didn’t fully appreciate for a long time.”
At first Emma appeared to cope with her diagnosis admirably. As family and friends we were all so proud of her. She got a job, met her boyfriend Dan and they moved in together. But gradually she started to experience both physical and emotional issues relating to her diabetes. She did her best to manage these, but severe anxiety and nerve damage were contributing to a serious lack of sleep and she found herself in a really dark place.
Emma says: “Dan and I went on holiday to Bali but it just turned out to be a very stressful experience. I realised I wasn’t happy at all and I couldn’t understand why.”
By now Emma was painfully thin, in pain, exhausted and extremely fragile. She knew she needed help and confided in the family. She was referred to a diabetic psychologist, which helped immensely – it was a safe and neutral place to talk about all sorts of issues, not just diabetes.
She tried valiantly to keep on working, but having been to hospital a number of times she had reached a crisis point and had to focus on her mental and physical health full-time. Emma moved in with her dad Tony and stepmum Karen and an intensive couple of months followed, working on sleeping and eating routines, talking about her feelings and making a plan for managing her diabetes going forward.
It was a rollercoaster of a journey, which at times was very difficult for her and for all us of who care about her, but with the right support and care and an awful lot of hard work by Emma, she is now in a great place.
Emma is now training as a dental nurse, she and Dan have bought their first house together and they have an addition to the family – a Romanian rescue dog called Trigger!
Emma says: “I’m really excited about the garden and hope that the message behind it reaches people and increases their understanding of the condition.”
Bob's Story ...
Changing the habits of a lifetime …… or not
Bob was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes around the age of 70 and, looking back, Bob’s wife, Sylvia, realised he had actually experienced some typical symptoms such as tiredness, increased urination and thirst. The diagnosis was finally made as result of Bob having a small stroke, the first of several, and ending up at the GP.
Bob had hardly had a day’s illness in his life before retiring from practicing as a dentist after more than 30 years. His wartime experiences, imprisoned by the Japanese on Java for 3 years, left him with a hatred for wasting food and as a child Katherine remembers how fierce he was about eating everything on your plate. It was a family joke that Dad would come down in the middle of the night and finish off the custard leftover from dinner.
Katherine recalls: "We called him the ‘phantom custard eater of Old London Towne’ – a spoof on a Two Ronnies sketch that was on TV at the time’. One of his main philosophies about life was that you get your three scores years and ten and everything else is a bonus".
This, and his general independence of spirit, may have been at the heart of his behaviour once he was diagnosed. He found the necessary changes very difficult to take on board.
Katherine says: "Dad went into denial really. He would try and hoodwink my mum into believing that he had tested his urine when he hadn’t. At that time, testing was done using indicator sticks and Dad would avoid testing if he could."
Bob also found it difficult to resist temptation. He would sneak off down to the shops and buy a bar of chocolate and eat it in the conservatory while his wife was in the kitchen. Sylvia adjusted his diet significantly, making his favourite stewed apples and custard with sweeteners instead of sugar, as well as encouraging Bob to test, but he still regarded his new diet as a being deprived .
Katherine recalls: "Things only changed when a consultant literally ‘read him the riot act’ and threatened to de-list him from the Diabetic clinic. He told my Dad point blank that for an intelligent man, he was behaving pretty stupidly. I think that was a pivotal moment."
Sadly, Katherine’s dad died in 1995 at the age of 76. The garden is partly a memorial to him.
Karen and Katherine ...
Karen and Katherine met when they were studying for their Diploma in Garden Design at the Pickard School, in Bristol.
Of a similar age, both career changers and both having previously forged successful careers in the corporate world, we had a lot in common. Determined to make our dream of becoming professional garden designers come true, there was a natural affinity - we both qualified with distinction and a firm friendship blossomed.
I've always been creative ... through dance in my earlier years, later studying architecture and interior design and then becoming a professional make-up artist. A commercial career in London became a challenge when I met my lovely husband Tony and his two beautiful daughters from the Midlands and that's when I re-trained to become a garden designer.
Watching Emma struggle with the day to day challenges of managing her diabetes has been heartbreaking at times. Unless you have seen someone battle with diabetes first-hand, it is hard to understand what a difficult, frustrating and at times all consuming condition it is to manage - you need to be on top of it every single day. There is no day off - but the right support, care and education really can help.
Emma is my inspiration behind the Show Garden and in its creation I really hope we help to raise awareness of diabetes.
I grew up in a large garden complete with vegetable plot, fruit cage and greenhouse and have always gardened - even when I lived in a flat and only had a balcony! So as life in the Civil Service became increasingly unfulfilling and also having met my lovely partner Chris, a career change into garden design was a natural one and I moved to Wiltshire with my lovely daughter Cerys.
My dad died 24 years ago now, when I was only 31 and a lot of time has passed since then. But he was my dad and I loved him, as stubborn and as difficult as he often was, particularly around managing his diabetes. Diabetes was a lot less well understood back then and therefore a lot more difficult to manage.
He was a very keen gardener and I think I get a lot of my passion for gardening from him. I remember him taking me to Bressingham Garden - just the two of us. He would have loved the garden at Malvern and been amazed and very proud.