A garden to commemorate the landscape architect Jo Yeates was created within the setting of an enhanced butterfly meadow, incorporating a sculptural bench, path and interpretation board.

As a result of Jo Yeatesʼ tragic and untimely death, the LISE (Landscape Institute South East Branch) suggested a memorial should be made by the Landscape institute and its members. Members volunteered their services and a site was sought. The appropriateness of Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is in its proximity to where her parents live, where she worked as a student and in the fact that although itʼs a public gardens, it has controlled access.

The intent was to allow the site to influence the design: to enhance an existing slightly scruffy meadow in order to attract more butterflies (and work with the butterfly garden theme suggested by Joʼs study at the garden), incorporate some of Joʼs favourite plants, and relate to the surrounding landscape and in particular the view of a lake and wider view out of the gardens. The philosophy was to enhance the biodiversity already there.

This project is unusual in terms of the stakeholder/contractor/designer/funding relationship (with no conventional client), and in how it adds value – particularly in how the professionʼs members and Institute worked together. It may act as a precedent or further inspire a newly emerging approach to memorial creation, where the reference to a person or event is not too literally represented physically on site.

The designers (one who had worked with her and the other a tutor at the university she studied at) set about creating a brief (and then design) that fitted her personality, student butterfly study and the chosen location within the gardens, and the wishes of her parents and the Garden Panel at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. This involved periodic reviews and checking against the predicted fundraising progress as well as using the
related publicity to help in this call for donations.

The process was very much designed to be inclusive at any level to those who wanted: from the extraordinary goodwill shown through donating money to being involved in the two planting days (May and September 2012) and opening ceremony (June 2012). At least 50 people participated in each event. Discussion and design sessions involved the garden staff, Gardens Panel, Landscape Institute Council and local Branch, and the outcome fed into the refinement of the design. The Gardensʼ staff assisted in planting and plant arrangement and will continue to be involved in maintenance.

It is a curvaceous design that strikes a balance between the restrained and unusual. The concept is a unique sculptural bench that folds back at one end (a little like a butterfly wing) to allow the person to rest back and view the sky. This is set within an enhanced butterfly meadow at a point that enables a balance between views out of the gardens and views down onto the gardens. It is at a convenient location but retains a degree of seclusion.

The intended users are landscape architects, staff of the gardens, Jo’s friends and family and others who contributed; butterfly enthusiasts, school children and the public (whether they knew her or not) wanting to see a garden that appeals also as a pleasant and natural place to sit and view the distant landscape.

It dovetails into the existing habitats (rather than imposing) and adds significantly to the biodiversity (at least 100 individual wildflower species) of the immediate environment (particularly insect). It has good sustainability credentials: using untreated oak, local sourcing of labour and ʻgreenʼ products, and no export of unwanted material. The scheme has withstood weather and visitor number pressures and stood up to them robustly without undue demands on maintenance. It sits comfortably within a park that is made of smaller gardens.

For the gardens, the project improved the use and appreciation of an under used area; increased visitor numbers to this area; builds on their programme of opportunities for learning and art placement; and remembrance among their staff of Jo as a former volunteer/student at the gardens. It also allowed the introduction of some new plant species that add to their collection.


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