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Darren Hawkes’ Maggie’s gardens

Darren Hawkes’ Maggie’s gardens

Darren Hawkes. Photo: Allan Pollok Morris


The designer talks about two gardens he is creating for the cancer charity

Pre-Registered SGD Member Darren Hawkes has three RHS Chelsea Flower Show gardens under his belt, and two Gold medals, the last of which he won for his innovative 2017 Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s Centres cancer-care charity. He has also designed two gardens for Maggie’s, in the Forth Valley in Scotland and St Bartholomew’s Hospital (Barts) in London.



My first contact with Maggie’s in a professional capacity came through Linklaters, the sponsors of my 2017 RHS Chelsea garden, which is a supporter of the charity. I also had a dear friend who used the Charing Cross centre, so I was delighted to represent their work through my show garden. They then asked how we could use the Chelsea garden at their centres, and while it wouldn’t work to transport the whole thing, we will be including elements in both the Forth Valley and Barts’ designs.




This centre at Larbert in Scotland is set in ancient woodland beside a stunning loch. The building by Garbers & James looks like a boathouse and is fully operational, but the charity had very little cash left for the grounds, which have been mostly laid to lawn. The rugged landscape is the perfect setting for the two large concrete structures that formed the focal points in my Chelsea garden, and they will provide seating areas sheltered from the wind, allowing the clients and their families to enjoy the lochside views in comfort. The planting will be robust and include Cornus, Rubus and Betula nigra.



This is a challenging space, set on a rooftop between architect Stephen Holl’s new glass and concrete extension to the hospital, which will be the Maggie’s Centre, and the existing Georgian architecture. The site also overlooks the ancient St Bartholomew the Great Church and Smithfield Market. In addition, we are designing the landscape around the new building, which is of archaeological interest and means we can only dig down 200mm in this area, so most of the planting will be in containers.



We have had a number of discussions with the architect to ensure the garden serves the building well, and we’ve also been led by Maggie’s design brief, which is one of the most moving documents I’ve ever read. It explains exactly what their clients need from an outdoor space, including privacy and accessibility, as well as areas that are open and more sociable. My design uses the huge Amelanchier from our Chelsea garden, plus a number of ginkgos. I’m also really excited about using interesting dry-shade plants in the difficult spots around the building. The biggest challenge is trying to harmonise the existing landscaping – currently seven different paving materials all compete in the space surrounding the centre, which I need to unify. 

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