Prize-winning garden aims to appeal to children with autism spectrum disorder

Adam White with children at the garden

Andrée Davies and LI president-elect Adam White have won the three top accolades at the recent Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Their jointly owned practice Davies White Landscape Architects won an RHS Gold Medal, the RHS Best in Show, and the RHS People’s Choice Award – an unprecedented triple win for the Kingston upon Thames-based duo.

The Zoflora and Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden highlights the beneficial qualities of a therapeutic garden for children with various disabilities, in particular autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Playful and edible planting, wild grassy mounds, tree-top nests, a huge spinning boulder, hidden Zoflora woodland scent pots, a secret mushroom cave, a giant hollow oak log and opportunities to play and explore with water were all on offer. A number of secluded spaces within the garden offered somewhere safe to relax – a key feature in designing spaces for children with ASD.

The garden catered for both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity – two common features of ASD – and was designed to become more stimulating as one traveled further into it. It also avoided the bright colours often associated with children-focused design, which can cause visual distress for hypersensitive children.

The project began life as a scale model built by Adam during his Locked in for Autism fundraiser, for which he spent 50 hours locked in a glass box in central London.

“I am passionate about reconnecting children with nature and believe the design process is as important as the end product,” said Adam, who impressed judges with his enthusiasm for the project and in-depth research into ASD. “We have serious epidemic of ‘nature deficit disorder’ in the UK and I hope this garden will showcase and raise awareness of how landscape and horticulture can create the perfect antidote.”

Now that the show is over, the garden will be re-imagined at the Caudwell International Children’s Centre at Keele University, which provides multi-disciplinary support for children with developmental disorders.

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