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Gardening with Hannah Genders

Awards for Tree of Life

Posted on January 15 2011 at 2:34:49 0 comments

Hannah Genders continues the story of an award-winning charity garden.

Engraved copper leaves on the Tree of Life

As you will know from previous articles in The Village magazine, I have been involved with a very exciting and moving project for the past 18 months.

I have been working with Edward’s Trust, a charity which carries out child bereavement counselling, to build a memorial garden at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

This garden was submitted for a BALI award – BALI stands for the British Association of Landscape Industries and is a quality mark for work in the landscape sector. It’s a very prestigious thing to get one of these awards, and amazingly this very special garden won two.

The awards ceremony was held in London, at a large hotel on Park Lane and with around 800 people attending. The awards cover everything in the landscape industry from build quality and maintenance to regeneration projects.

My garden was in a category of ‘design excellence’ and it won an overall award in this section, plus – as a complete surprise to me – it also won a special award for design innovation. I had no idea it had been submitted for this and so was in a state of shock as I collected the award for this section.

The judges said: “The garden was easy to understand and very moving, in that it offered a sense of hope to all who visited.”

For those of you who may have missed previous articles I will tell you something of the project and the garden.

Back in the summer of 2009 I was approached by Edward’s Trust to design a garden that would become a permanent memorial for all the parents and families they had worked with over the last twenty-five years. They are based in Birmingham and support anyone struggling with the loss of a child.

At this stage the John Lewis Partnership had bought the charity a plot at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The idea of designing and building a tree came to me – this would be bare to start with but would “grow” leaves as the names of children were added. Each name would be engraved on an individual leaf and hung on the tree to remember those loved and lost.

As the project has gone on, it has been called “the tree of hope” and actually this describes it rather well. The tree is made of a copper resin and was sculpted in three sections and erected on site by a very clever artist called David Watkinson.

It all came about through a chance meeting at the Malvern show and this is the largest commission David has ever done. Due to the material having a copper content, as it has weathered the tree has developed a stunning green patina and become very lifelike.

The tree is surrounded by a beautiful oak trellis, made with locally sourced timber and constructed by Craig and the carpentry team at Leamington Spa College; it really is stunning with every piece jointed into the main frame.

A winding path leads you into the intimate seating under the tree and out the other side, with a wonderful view out to the river that runs through the site. The planting is all natural; the feature sits in a drift of trees and shrubs with some lovely perennial planting underneath, including foxgloves, anemones and primulas.

The garden is now completed; if any of you would like to visit it just ask for the Edward’s Trust garden when you visit the Arboretum. It is situated down by the river, near the children’s playground.

The first set of 60 leaves are now hanging on the memorial tree, each with a child’s name engraved. The leaves are attached to the tree with a swivel, so they move in the wind. We have about another 200 leaves to engrave and hang on the tree, along with some leaves to be added to the paving below showing the people who have sponsored this special garden.

The garden is due to have its official opening in late March; this will involve a royal visit and hopefully a blessing for the tree and the leaves.

As with any project like this, it’s never possible without the hard work and commitment of all involved, so from me a big thank you to the whole build team.

For more information have a look at my website: http://www.hannahgenders.co.uk


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