As an enthusiastic gardener, being asked to swap The Hereford Haven where I work for the Haven’s first ever Chelsea Flower Show garden in May was a real honour.

When I first heard that The Haven was going to Chelsea, I did wonder whether a garden would ever be able to re-create all that is wonderful and relaxing about our fantastic charity – as well as raise awareness.

Having spent time among the crowds at the ‘Breast Cancer Haven’ artisan garden, however (a real treat as I had never visited the show before), I can safely say the stunning display – created by Sarah Eberle with a sculpture by Tom Hare – touched everyone lucky enough to see it. There are more people in the world that know about what we do and why it is so important and the wonderful plants – from primulas to Aquilegia – helped us tell that story. You can read more about the planting and the thinking behind the garden (for example the oak element symbolised both strength and longevity) on our Chelsea page as well as see interviews with Sarah, Tom and some of our Haven Visitors.

What did I like most about the Haven garden? I would have to say the subtle planting scheme with the willow oak leaf recliner at the centre. There was a real feeling of calm and support about it that sums up the experience of those who have come to The Haven. I loved the way Sarah Eberle created such a peaceful atmosphere with just her plant choices. After more than 10 hours on my feet, I was still seeing new combinations as the light changed, the sun shone or rain fell.Close up flowers2

It didn’t take long to see why you needed to be a keen gardener to man the garden. For me, it was a real challenge identifying all of the plants. I’d been given a plant list in advance and was relieved to find that I knew most of them already. The day before, I googled all the plants and made my own cribb sheet with a picture and some cultivation tips on each. This proved invaluable because although I could identify a primula, I wouldn’t have been able to say which was Millers Choice and which was Bulleyana without the help of a colour picture (one is rose red, the other golden yellow).

I was really surprised by the number of people interested in particular plants and varieties. Certain plants stood out and I quickly learned the names of Aquilegia v. William Guiness, Primula Millers Crimson, Sinocalycanthus Hartlage Wine, Trollius New Moon. I have since ordered myself a Sinocalycanthus Hartlage Wine as I loved it so much – and then I just had to order three Aquilegia v. William Guiness because the combination worked beautifully together.

BBC Radio Jersey also asked for a radio interview with less than a minute’s notice. I had no idea what they would ask and was surrounded by crowds in the midst of all the gold medal winning frenzy. Thankfully, although last minute, it went well as I’ve worked for The Haven for 11 years so know all about the services we offer. Plus, by that time, I was able to talk about the garden and the plants with some authority, having been asked so many questions!

I couldn’t get over how many people there were. Come rain or sun – from 8am to 8pm – they were there, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the garden. It was relentless and we really had to work hard to stop them from damaging the plants. This wasn’t something I had anticipated, but it took up a great deal of the time. The garden was built on an oak raised bed with some very delicate perennials overhanging at the front. As the crowds pressed forward, we had to keep an eagle eye on people and request that they didn’t accidentally hit the plants with their bags. With the volume of traffic, the plants to the front of the garden were really suffering.

The show may be over, but what is so exciting is that the garden will live on. The willow recliner is being auctioned off to raise funds and the garden itself is going to be recreated at our new Haven in Wessex. It makes me happy to think that more people will get to share the experience of visiting the garden – and that the Haven will have more funds to ensure it remains a wonderful retreat for all those diagnosed with breast cancer.close up flowers1

Whether we are to be at Chelsea again is not a decision I can make. But, having seen the faces of the crowds and spent such a long time among the flowers, I really hope the Haven will blossom once more.