RHS Malvern Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden

Earlier this month at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2022, I came across a garden dedicated to Cancer Research UK. Designed by Karen Tatlow in collaboration with Design It Landscapes, MJL Garden Design and Sophie Parmenter Planting Design, the ‘Legacy Garden’ was designed to celebrate those who left a gift to the charity in their will, and evoked calmness and peacefulness with the choice of plants, layout and decorative items.

Main image by @designitlandscapes



Sophie Parmenter, who helped curate the plant collection for the garden, gave some insight into why she chose some of the plants used:


Taxus baccata


Yew (Taxus baccata)

“If people have heard of a plant used in cancer research it’s usually this one, so it was an obvious choice when we were selecting the hedging for the garden. The dark green was also perfect for showing off the vibrant Cancer Research UK brand colour palette on the left hand side and for contributing to the more restful green and white scheme on the right hand side.

“There are two drugs used in chemotherapy which were developed from yew species: docetaxel from the needles of Taxus baccata and paclitaxel from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia).”


Pinus strobus Blue Shag


Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’

“I hadn’t included this in my original planting plan but we stumbled across these on a trip to view our gorgeous Sorbus commixta ‘Dodong’ trees and I couldn’t help giving them a stroke! I was really pleased to discover that there was good reason to include it in the planting scheme as, over 60 years ago, scientists discovered a compound in these trees called Pinostrobin, which has since been used in cancer research. It’s a flavinoid (essentially a yellow plant pigment) with many pharmacological activities including anti-viral, anti-oxidant, anti-leukaemic, and anti-inflammatory activities and is now a commercially available product.”


Podophyllum peltatum


Podophyllum peltatum

“This is a good plant to demonstrate the link between toxicity and potential cancer-fighting benefits. The compound derived from the plant is podophyllotoxin and two of its derivatives are used in chemotherapy, including etoposide which is on the WHO’s Essential Medicines’ List.”


Viburnum opulus


Viburnum opulus (& V. o. ‘Compactus’)

” I often include this in a design as it’s a great native tree/shrub for interest throughout the year: white blossom in the Spring and great Autumn colour with glossy red berries which last well. Again, the berries can be slightly toxic if eaten raw but can be cooked into jelly or jam, or produce a juice, gilaburu, used in traditional medicine in Turkey.

“It’s one of the national symbols of Russia and of Ukraine. There’s a song – “Chervona Kalyna” – “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow” – written in honour of Ukraine’s Sich Riflemen, which is now associated with Ukrainian independence. About a month ago, I discovered Dave Gilmore of Pink Floyd had used a version of it in their new fundraising single “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!”: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/apr/07/pink-floyd-reform-to-support-ukraine


Vaccinium corymbosum Duke


Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Duke’

“These magnificent blueberry bushes have been lent to us by the lovely Stephen at New Farm Produce Ltd who was also kind enough to keep our white Erica australis in his giant fridge for 2 weeks to hold them back.

“Research has investigated the mechanisms by which blueberries have been shown to prevent carcinogenesis; in other words, eating them could be a delicious way of avoiding cancer in the first place!”



What part of this tranquil garden inspires you? Let me know in the comments section below.

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