We made a garden for Rainbows Hospice : Belvoir Show 2018

My very wise Welsh grandmother was full of quaint little sayings. I used to laugh at the time. “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down; ” and “Something good always comes out of adversity.” But I didn’t heed them at the time. Then two years ago, suddenly, out of the blue, I became seriously ill. In the middle of the crisis, those words came back to me.

While I was lying in my hospital bed, I decided, if I survived, I would raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. Being so ill was frightening, and it took all my inner resources to cope. How much worse, I thought, must it be for a child to be ill and in pain. Since then, I’ve been hosting garden club talks, afternoon teas and book launch events. But my biggest challenge came last weekend when I helped build a show garden.

And this is how it started. Over the bridge is the lake-side setting for the first ever Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Festival. It’s a glorious Capability Brown landscape with rolling hillsides and ancient oak plantations.

We had four and a half days to make a garden. It’s a historic site, so we couldn’t dig down or hammer anything into the ground. Everything had to be built up from a protective ground cover.

We had no budget. Everything was begged or borrowed. Any money, I thought, should go to Rainbows.

David Greaves co-designed the garden and donated all the labour for the build. While I concentrated on the plants, David co-ordinated all the materials and deliveries we would need.

First the garden was marked out. Lewis lays the foundation for the dry stone wall. Alfie’s on the cement mixer.

The first stone is laid.

The beautiful honey -coloured stone was donated by Goldholme Stone.

A lorry load of topsoil arrives, a donation from Richard Fenton.

Such a stunning setting for a garden. Everyone works at breakneck speed, in 28C heat. There’s Sam, Pete, Gareth and David cracking on, mindful of the deadline.

Parents told me being given devastating news your children are not going to live long and full lives is like a hammer blow. They feel as if they’ve been knocked down and can’t get back up. One mother said she felt like Rainbows “picks you up and gives you a hug. ” Something she said was most needed when you’re at your lowest ebb. So I made a seating area in the shape of open arms, or a hug.

This is the artist’s impression of the garden. We designed the garden in two halves. On one side is a parent’s garden with the hug-shape seat set in a woodland glade with native trees and plants. It’s a calm haven. The idea was to highlight the message that Rainbows isn’t just for children; it’s for parents, relatives and siblings who need help, counselling and support.

Parents said, when told their child had a life-limiting illness, all their hopes and dreams for the future collapse. They can’t see what lies ahead. The future is clouded. The Perspex screens puts their words into our garden.

On the other side of the screens is the children’s garden, giving an idea of what it’s like at Rainbows; an insight for anyone who has never visited. There’s a music therapy corner, bird watching hide and wildlife area, water play wall, and a quiet retreat with swing seat covered in rainbow-coloured cushions.

I’ve been going back and forth to the hospice for months, helping the children and young people to grow their own plants for the containers. I loved working with them. I wanted them to share in telling the Rainbows story. Here’s my daughter Clare helping with the planting of seeds and bulbs.

Although nothing was said, I realised some of the children couldn’t see. They enjoyed the feel of dry compost running through their fingers and they spent a long time turning over and feeling the different shaped bulbs- gladioli, lily and begonia. It was an experience I will never forget.

The containers were sited in the middle of the chidren’s garden, and also all around a fund-raising marquee set up by Rainbows alongside our garden.

All the beautiful trees, shrubs and perennials were grown by Miles Nurseries Hoby Leicestershire. Thanks to Tom, Bel and Lawson for providing such fabulous plants. And for all your deliveries to the site. We could not have built the garden without your kind support.

Our water play and music wall.

Here’s the Duchess of Rutland viewing our garden, with David Greaves explaining the design. The good news is we won Best in Show. And even better, the garden is going to be re-built in the castle grounds.

The duchess tried out the drum kit in the music therapy corner.

My Mum, who’s been very ill too this year, recovered enough to come and see the garden. That really made my day to be honest.

This little visitor to the show was enchanted by the butterflies that arrived as soon as we’d planted the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my diary of building a show garden. We raised several thousand pounds with donations, pledges and people joining the Rainbows lottery. Here’s the link if you would like to support the work of this amazing hospice.

Rainbows Hospice – Ways you can help.

With many thanks to all our sponsors: David Greaves Landscape Design and Construction for co-design and build , Miles Nurseries for all trees, shrubs and plants, Bagforce Aggregates , William Hercock Builders Merchants , CED paving and stone Belvoir Saw Mill, Chris Cooper-Hayes for artists impression, Goldholme Stone , David Musson Fencing , Motorpoint for perspex screens and leaflets, Richard Fenton for topsoil ,Melcourt for compost and bark, Burgon and Ball children’s tools and kneeling pads, Mr Fothergill’s Seeds for children’s pots, Gee Tee Bulbs for children’s container bulbs, Elho for children’s containers and plant pots, CJ Wildlife for bird and wildlife corner supplies, Cooks Lane Herbs , Sitting Spiritually swing seat, Pete Brown Carpentry, Libby Greaves for planning and co-ordination, publicity and planting.

Also many thanks to Soo Spector, Marissa Ewing-Gerrard, Clive Gimson for planting and Gary and Alison at Rainbows for helping me; Emma Scarborough for mentoring, and Sue Blaxland who taught me everything at Brooksby College.

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41 thoughts on “We made a garden for Rainbows Hospice : Belvoir Show 2018

    • Thank you Cindy. I really enjoyed planning and making that garden. I think we did what we set out to do, which was to raise the profile of Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. I’m going to continue to go back and forth and do gardening with the kids. I think it’s going to be a lifetime’s passion now. Thanks for reading and for your kind comments. if I just reached one person, to be honest, it was worth it. Karen


    • Thank you Brian. I am so proud of everyone who worked so hard to make it happen. Money is still coming in, especially for the Rainbows lottery which was my particular target. I enjoyed every second of working on the project. Just so hot though. Wanted to cool off in the water feature. Very nearly paddled my feet in it in 30C heat! Thanks again for reading and for your lovely, kind comments. Much appreciated. Karen


  1. What a project, it is outstanding! I love the drum kit idea. It obviously entertains children of all ages. Butterflies are the best ambassadors of the garden. It is good that you could share this treasure with your Mom. The photo with you here is frame worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Christina. I put my heart and soul into that project. I’m going to the hospice tomorrow to return the children’s pots of plants and show them the trophy and photos. I’m going to keep up the contact and help where I can. Thanks again for reading and for your lovely kind words which have made my day xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen, your grandmother was right when she said “Something good comes out of adversity”. When I had an accident at work, when I got home, I became a member of Medicos Sin Fronteras, UNICEF, Red Cross, Oxfam International, but I did not get involved. But YOU two years ago suffering in bed you decided to start up and participate in Rainbows that not only cares for sick children but also supports their parents and family. In the Castle of Belvoir in 4 days and a half on a protective cover of the ground and without budget you and wonderful people who helped and gave you the earth, the plants, the stones: everything; You got to make a wonderful garden. I am overwhelmed by the words of the mother that “Rainbows picks you up and hugs you” And hence the hug zone or open arms of the garden: it’s wonderful. And the other side of the garden a fun and entertaining interactive garden with lots of things to do or watch for kids: I love it. Your daughter Claire is very beautiful and supportive like YOU. I am very happy that your Mother, who seems very young and is a great lady, was recovered to go to the garden. Congratulations for the Best in Show! And what a joy that the Garden is rebuilt in the grounds of the Castle! I’m glad that the collection was high: Rainbows deserves it. The photos are magnificent. Karen is fantastic what you’ve done. I congratulate you from my heart. Many greetings and love for your Mother and your daughter Claire. Health and love for your whole family. Karen love and all the best in the world. Take care. Loving greetings from Margarita.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Margarita. I’m going back to the hospice tomorrow to take the children’s plant pots and plants back for them to enjoy for the summer. Thanks for reading and for lovely kind comments which have made my day. Thank you for being such a lovely supportive friend. Loving greetings from karen xx


    • Thank you Cathy. One of the youngsters who wanted to help was lying in a bed that could be wheeled about the hospice over to the patio doors. I wondered how we could do any gardening from a lying down position, but I just knelt beside the bed and held the plant pot and she put her hand out of the bed and spent ages feeling the shape of the pot and the texture of the compost. It must have been so different from all her other activities. Time sort of slowed down as I adjusted myself to their pace of life. It was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very well done to all involved it looks amazing and in benefit to the Rainbows hospice. Gaining deserved recognition in winning ‘Best in Show’.
    As always, some super pictures to go with your reports.
    Keep up the good work, Daniel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of the loveliest, and most heartfelt, blog posts that I’ve enjoyed reading in a very long time. The pictures are wonderful, especially the one of the little girl.
    Well done to you, and everyone else, involved in this garden and congratulations on winning the Best in Show award. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mike. That’s so lovely of you. I threw my heart and soul into that garden. I hoped people would understand the messages behind the design, and I think they did. It’s been a wonderful project with so many people involved. Not one person turned me down when I asked for help. Everyone got on board to make a garde

      Liked by 1 person

    • … to make the garden a success and raise the profile of Rainbows Hospice. Some of the children and young people were able to come to see the garden. Their smiles made everything worthwhile. Thanks again for your kind comments which have made my day xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It was a wonderful garden , the ‘back story,’ is incredibly moving. You all achieved so much with the garden, the impact of it will ripple on, I am sure, and continue to raise awarness for Rainbows for a long long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Andy. And congratulations on organising such a fantastic inaugural Belvoir Show. The event had something for everyone- live music, gardeners’ question time, food, drinks, floristry demos, and not least, some lovely show gardens. Glad to have been a part of this first event. I’m sure it will become a highlight on our summer social calendar.


  6. That’s the most wonderful story, Karen, thank you so much for sharing it. It must have taken a lot of your time and a lot of running around to secure all those donations of help, equipment and soil etc. Congratulations on winning Best in Show. I’m so pleased to read that the garden is going to be re-built as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jane. I enjoyed every minute of it. So relieved it all worked out and we raised lots of funds – as well as the profile of such a fabulous hospice. Thanks again for your kind comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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