Family-focused landscaping on rise says Idverde operations director

Idverde is aiming for its double medal-winning Chelsea garden to send a strong message to its staff and others that families can face difficulties by spending quality time together, as the contractor sees increasing interest in landscaping for families.

Bayford (right) shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge his garden. Image: idverde
Bayford (right) shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge his garden. Image: idverde

The Family Monsters Garden, sponsored and built by the national contractor and designed by its operations director Alistair Bayford took two awards at the show - a Gold medal for design and the Best Artisan Garden award.

The garden celebrates idverde’s 100th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of the national charity Family Action and aims to get families talking about the everyday pressures all families face - or ‘family monsters’ - but find difficult to talk about, in a welcoming and calming space.

The garden links to the growing awareness of the importance of exposure to nature for people’s health, with a central space designed for families to sit and talk together.

Play areas and gardens for families are a strong area for the contractor currently, Bayford told Horticulture Week.

Idverde is working on several play area builds for clients including the Royal Parks and the London boroughs of Hackney and Lewisham.

He said the issue of equal access for families from all social backgrounds to decent quality green space "is at the forefront now". "I’ve got clients, local authorities, that are investing heavily in play for a health agenda," he said. "They are trying to diversify their play offer away from a kit, fence, carpet approach. We’ve got five schemes that are play-focused which include an incredible amount of planting, boulders and fallen trees."

Recently completed contracts include the Hounslow Active Spaces Programme, which rebuilt school playgrounds in the west London borough specifically to encourage children to be more active during their school day, and a similar project for Camden Council in north London.

Bayford’s Chelsea design is highly symbolic, featuring boulders which represent monsters which appear in family dynamics and shows that they come in many shapes and sizes. Pebbles in the water feature show imperfections that are part of every family, he said. He chose trees with obvious imperfections to show how families can grow together after tackling challenges.

"We worked quite hard with the planting to try and represent the diversity of families and

For example a statuesque pine tree represents the older generation in among younger plants. The elevated platform represents how we build castles on hills."

Bayford said that the company funded the garden for the same reasons as it did last year’s Mind Trap garden, which was designed by Ian Price and built by idverde and also won a Gold Medal - to send a message to staff that all families experience problems but it is important to talk about them, to promote the benefits of exposure to green space, to display idverde talents to the world and to give idverde apprentices and landscapers valuable experience of building the garden.

"This goes back to our roots. We are a leading supplier of green services," Bayford said. "Chelsea is the most significant horticultural event in the year. We want our apprentices to experience something they wouldn't normally be able to go to and get our staff to be part of it too."

After the show, the Family Monsters Garden will be relocated to Silkmore Children’s Centre in Stafford, where it will continue to benefit local families, community and wildlife.

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