Chelsea garden to celebrate modern nursing

A garden celebrating the nursing profession in the 21st century and inspired by the legacy of Florence Nightingale, sponsored by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, will finally be unveiled at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 20th September 2021. The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Nursing, will be designed by Robert Myers with a re-imagined planting palette including late summer flowers and grasses.

The garden was first intended for the 2020 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to honour the bicentenary of the acclaimed nurse, social reformer and statistician, known as the founder of modern nursing.

The Main Avenue show garden depicts an imagined hospital courtyard enclosed on three sides by a sculptural timber pergola. The original spring design for the rescheduled May 2021 show had a shady woodland garden but for the autumnal design, Robert has designed a more open space with drifts of late-flowering perennials, grasses and bulbs; Florence’s favourite flower, the foxglove, will now be incorporated in the form of seed heads.

Robert used many medicinal plants in the original design that would have been used in Florence Nightingale’s time, as well as plants that featured in her childhood pressed flower collection. These will still feature throughout the garden and will include Chinese rhubarb, witch hazel and ferns.

Robert Myers said: “Having designed a number of Chelsea gardens, all in May of course, I’m excited about being able to work with a late summer plant palette. The planting in the centre of the garden was initially conceived using spring plants that would be in flower under light new tree foliage; the calm, lush atmosphere of this restorative space, where texture and foliage are equally as important as colour and flowers, will be retained but using species that hold their own at this time of year.

Chief executive, Shirley Baines comments that 2021 has become more relevant than ever, with nurses at the forefront of the health emergency: “As the founder of modern-day nursing, many of Nightingale’s principles on hygiene and statistical evidence underpin the way in which the world has tackled the Coronavirus pandemic and, over the past year, we have all come to recognise the importance of gardens for our health and wellbeing,” said Shirley.   “The garden is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Florence Nightingale’s legacy, today’s inspirational nurses and the restorative power of nature.”

Revolutionary ‘pavilion style’

The design reflects the revolutionary ‘pavilion-style’ hospital layouts advocated by Nightingale, the restorative garden has been designed for viewing from inside the building, as well as for strolling through with places to rest among naturalistic planting. Key elements of Nightingale’s life will be referenced throughout the space and images of her will appear in slightly opaque windows. There will also be fragments of her handwriting inscribed on the walls alongside images of some of the flowers found in her pressed collection.

In recognition of modern-day nursing, representations of the Florence Nightingale Nurses badge will be set into the path as small bronze roundels, with a larger badge – redesigned to mark the bicentenary – marking the end of the trail.  Denoting both Florence Nightingale’s enduring legacy and her ability to inspire the next generation of leaders in the nursing profession, the badges were originally created for nurses who qualified at the Nightingale School at St Thomas’s Hospital in London – the world’s first professional nursing school established by Florence Nightingale in 1925.

The garden will be built by landscape contractors Bowles & Wyer, one of RHS Chelsea’s most experienced landscape contractors and specialists in building restorative gardens for hospitals.

Image credits: Garden design ©and credit Robert Myers.