Karen Tatlow

Posted: 15.04.2019

Breaking ground at the Malvern Spring Festival

First ever show garden to highlight mental health issues of living with diabetes breaks ground at the Malvern Spring Festival.

Around 50m2 of bare soil was revealed today at the Three Counties Showground as the process of transforming part of a field into a show garden began for design duo, Karen Tatlow and Katherine Hathaway, and landscaper, Mike Lote. As the grass comes off, and with only 17 days before the judges at the Malvern Spring Festival scrutinise every leaf and mortar joint, the team are absolutely focussed on achieving a garden that is the peak of perfection.

The Habit of Living Garden is the first ever show garden in support of Diabetes UK and aims to raise awareness of a condition which affects more people than cancer and dementia combined – 4.7m people in the UK alone.

And it’s a very personal project. Karen and Katherine were inspired to build the garden as a result of watching loved ones in their own families struggle with the condition. Karen’s stepdaughter battled severe illness with complications due to her Type 1 diabetes, while Katherine’s father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in later life.

To achieve an ‘instant’ show garden, the team will be laying paving, building walls, planting a tree and installing mature hedges. The garden will also include a water feature with intermittent water jets to remind visitors that someone is diagnosed with diabetes every 2 minutes in the UK. A major challenge will be installing sculptural graphs - based on genuine data from a continuous blood glucose monitor - which represent the need for someone living with diabetes to constantly monitor their blood glucose levels.

As Katherine says: ‘We’ve had endless conversations about how to achieve the graphs which will be set into a curved hedge. Normally you’d plant the hedge around the graph and let it grow but we weren’t able to plan that far ahead! Our hedge is already 8 years old and we hope it won’t mind having metal rods inserted into it.’

Another tricky area is the planting which is designed to travel from moodier tones of plum and purple to lighter, brighter blues and whites across the garden, representing the emotional journey people go on in the years following a diagnosis.

Karen says: ‘Show gardens need to look their very best for just a moment in time and, of course, plants just don’t bloom to order. There are always last-minute substitutions, plus some plants will sulk a bit when we take them out of a warm greenhouse. We’ll probably have a nerve wracking last few days with the planting’.

As they have gone through the planning process, the team have been surprised at just how many of the people they’ve met along the way are either living with diabetes or supporting a loved one with it.

Peter Shorrock, Diabetes UK Midlands and East of England Regional Head, said: “Diabetes affects one in fifteen people and that’s why this show garden is such an important and innovative way to raise awareness. In particular, we hope it will increase understanding of the mental health aspects of living with the condition among the 100,000 or more visitors to the Malvern Spring Festival and to a wider audience beyond.”



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