RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023's Winner Showcases A Perfect Woodland Escape

The prestigious Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show has come to a close, and the "Best in Show" winner has been announced — a whimsical woodland titled Horatio's Garden. The garden was created by Harris Bugg Studio, a design team headed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg. The space, which The Royal Horticultural Society calls "an immersive, restorative haven," was selected from 12 entries for the top prize. 

Horatio's Garden is one of several of the same namesake — they are created in honor of Horatio Chappel, who volunteered at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre and dreamed of funding a garden there that patients and families could take refuge in. After his death in 2011, a charity, also called Horatio's Garden, was formed and has since funded several other gardens in NHS spinal recovery hospitals. However, this is the first time their mission has come across the Chelsea Flower Show stage and the first time that an accessibility-focused entry has won.

The garden is a healing sanctuary

The garden itself was designed to meet the needs of patients at the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield, where a duplicate of the garden will be constructed. That means that accessibility and healing were at the center of the project mission. In a conversation with Devon Life, Charlotte Harris of Harris Bugg studio stated that the garden "has to be uncompromisingly beautiful and also completely accessible." That means that the pathways and views needed to be built to be beautiful from any perspective, whether that is while standing, sitting, or lying down.

One thing that stands out about Horatio's Garden is how very sheltered and protected it seems. A thick canopy of trees and lush beds of flowers and shrubs protect visitors from exposure to the elements, which is paralleled by the eye-catching shingled hut at the focus of the garden. To create this effect, the designers chose plants like Aruncus "Horatio," geraniums, hydrangeas, and shrub roses, all plants found in the Sheffield valleys and woods, the area that will be home to Horatio's Garden. All of these native plants give the area a crisp, comfortable, and harbored atmosphere. In addition to the abundant floor of plants, a gently trickling water feature brings a zen-like quality to the garden. The wide pathways allow wheelchair users to move freely about the garden, something that is all too often ignored and made impossible.