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An emotional journey supporting loved ones with diabetes has inspired two garden designers to dream up a beautiful Show Garden for RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019 (May 9-12).

Karen Tatlow and Katherine Hathaway have both been touched by the condition and have chosen to raise awareness by designing the first ever diabetes Show Garden.

Karen’s stepdaughter battled severe illness with complications due to her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, while Katherine’s father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in later life.

Karen, who lives in Lichfield, said: “Diabetes affects more people than cancer and dementia combined, which so many people don’t realise. We’ve both watched people we love struggle with the condition, so we wanted to create a garden that highlights the challenges of living with diabetes.”

The garden is imagined as a small, private garden for a diabetes centre for use by patients, visitors and staff. It will highlight the struggle and journey from diagnosis to managing the condition well, a serious condition that affects one in 15 people in the UK.

Design references are made throughout to the charity Diabetes UK and diabetes management, with sculptural graphs representing the constant monitoring of blood glucose levels and intermittent water feature jets that symbolise the frequency of diagnosis.

The emotional and physical journey made from diagnosis through to managing the condition well is shown via a dark, more difficult to navigate pathway that leads through to an easier, brighter pathway, with a seating area for rest and quiet reflection. A seat for two highlights its place as somewhere to be supported.

A feature wall creates a sense of enclosure to the seating area representing sanctuary and acceptance. The combined light and dark porcelain cladding speaks to the highs and lows of managing this lifelong condition.

Planting will feature aquilegias, geraniums, lilies and irises chosen for their soothing colour and to link to the Diabetes UK colour scheme. Hues of plum and purple will lead towards lighter shades of blues, whites and creams, following the journey from diagnosis to successful management.

Katherine, from Chippenham, Wiltshire said: “Karen and I work brilliantly together and we’re so excited to be creating this garden. RHS Malvern was recommended to us because it’s so friendly. When we found out we had got the go ahead we were absolutely delighted and the support we have received from our suppliers and sponsors has been so positive. We can’t wait to make the garden a reality.”

It’s not just the designers who are thrilled to be creating the show garden. Diabetes UK will have volunteers and staff on hand at the show to share advice and support on the condition.

Peter Shorrick, Diabetes UK Midlands and East of England Regional Head, said: “We are delighted to have a garden, inspired by the work of the charity, created for RHS Malvern.

“Both Karen and Katherine have seen first-hand the impact a diabetes diagnosis can have on someone’s life and we are very excited to be working closely with these talented designers to raise awareness and understanding of this serious condition in such an innovative way.

“Diabetes UK is fighting for a world where diabetes can do no harm and this thought-provoking garden design will hopefully encourage visitors to think about diabetes in a different way.”

Head of Shows, Diana Walton, said: “We’ve been very moved by the story behind this garden and we’re sure our visitors will be touched too. We have more than 100,000 people who come to the show and we hope they’ll all learn more about being aware of the risk of diabetes and keeping a close eye on their own health.”

Tippers, a Midlands based landscaping and building materials supplier, will supply the general landscaping and building materials, equipment hire, transport and logistics.  Tippers employed Karen’s stepdaughter and were particularly supportive of her during the time she was severely ill with complications due to her Type 1 diabetes.

MJL Garden Design is constructing the garden, Urban Street Designs is designing the sculptural metal graphs and water feature and Ethan Mason will supply the porcelain paving and cladding.

RHS Malvern Spring Festival takes place from Thursday 9 May until Sunday 12 May 2019. Tickets are now on sale. Free entry for children under the age of 16 is available throughout the festival.

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