Crohn's sufferer turns his hand to Hampton Court garden

A Crohn's sufferer, who was a week away from death before his diagnosis, is building a garden at the world's largest flower show to raise awareness of the disease and to help find better treatments and a possible cure.

Scott Yates at work at Abbey Garden Centre in Titchfield. Image: Supplied
Scott Yates at work at Abbey Garden Centre in Titchfield. Image: Supplied

Ten years ago Scott Yates (28) from Hampshire was rushed into hospital weighing 7 ½ stone. What he thought was an eating disorder was diagnosed as the incurable, and life-long condition, Crohn's Disease.

Yates has had two emergency operations to remove parts of his bowel, is on medication and lives with the side effects of treatment. He considers himself a lucky Crohn's sufferer because he's not had to follow a restrictive diet, live off liquids or have a colostomy bag.

Keeping stress levels down helps Yates to manage his symptoms. Previously a chef, he retrained as horticulturalist and now grows plants at a Hampshire garden centre. He says gardening helps him manage his stress levels which can prevent the painful flare-ups associated with Crohn's.

Now married and with a young son, Yates wants to make things better for Crohn's sufferers. So, in July he is helping to build a show garden at Hampton Court Palace. The aim of the garden is to raise awareness of a disease, that largely affects young people, and to help find better treatments and a possible cure.

Yates is working on the 'The Crohn's Disease Garden' for a tiny London charity, Bowel Disease UK, at the Royal Horticultural Society's Hampton Court Palace Show (Tuesday 5th to Sunday 10th July).

Bowel Disease UK, which has no staff, has already raised half a million pounds and is close to finding a new and cost-effective way to treat the disease.

The charity's chairman Gary Douch says Yates is a fitting champion as more and more children and young people are diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in the UK. Also a Crohn's sufferer, Gary set up the charity from his hospital bed in 2007 to fund research at St George's University Hospital in London.

Yates, who starts work on site at Hampton Court on 20 June, explained why he wanted to be involved:

"I want to show people that you can achieve your goals and have a normal life. I don't want Crohn's to define me and I think, so far, I'm doing quite well. I jumped at the chance to be involved with this garden and I have the backing of my employees who have always been incredibly supportive and understanding.

"The garden has been designed by the London based practice of Andrew Fisher Tomlin, an ambassador of the charity, and Dan Bowyer. Their brief is that it is for a keen gardener and young Crohn's sufferer. I like the fact that the look and feel of it tells the story of how vital and vibrant a young person's life can be despite having to live with this debilitating disease. There will be some amazing rare but hardy exotic plants which won't have been seen in the UK before. And some cool design details. That, alongside working with Andrew, who has created award-winning gardens all over the world, is a great horticultural experience."

It will take a team of 10 people 12 days to build the 26ft x 19½ft garden which will launch a crowdfunding appeal to raise £150k to study the efficacy of a novel drug and the impact of targeted diets for those with Crohn's Disease. The research will be led by trustee Professor Devinder Kumar - a bowel disease surgeon and consultant who works at St George's University of London.

Over 10 suppliers have made generous donations of plants, materials and a unique humidity system for the more unusual shade plants. If the garden is not bought at the show it will be relocated to a private garden and become a fundraiser for an event later in the year.

Once the show is over Yates' next horticultural challenge is a five year course part time at Sparsholt College in Hampshire leading to an FdSc Horticulture with Plantsmanship and Design Degree. He hopes his studies will lead to more opportunities to grow his career.

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