We won! Humanist garden triumphs at Shrewsbury Flower Show

Joe Swift presenting award certificates to Carol Seager

Joe Swift presenting award certificates to Carol Seager

Wonderful news! “Sundance”, the Humanist garden in the Shrewsbury Flower Show, received a Large Gold Medal (the highest award), and — even better — was awarded the Mike Hough Memorial Trophy for best outdoor show garden. The garden was sponsored by the Shropshire Humanist Group, with contributions from Birmingham Humanists and Humanists UK. As it was surrounded by gardens created at huge expense by teams of professionals, it was also a triumph for amateurs and volunteers.

Carol Seager — a member of Shropshire Humanist Group — conceived, designed and created this wonderful garden with a strong humanist theme which is explained below. The photographs don’t really do justice to the beautiful and complex design. Not only did Carol create a fascinating interesting horticultural exhibit, but she herself also made all the additional features, such as the wood fencing and shelter, canopy, batik hangings and painted ceramics – often subtly incorporating the Happy Humanist sign or the new Humanists UK logo.

We had a small humanism stand next to the garden.  Many visitors to the flower shop stopped to view the garden and to talk to Carol, Mal Brown, Sue Falder and Simon Nightingale about the ethos of the garden and also the nature of humanism. The garden certainly helped to raise the profile of humanism for the general public.

Carol has become quite a celebrity. She was interviewed for ITV Midland news on Friday and was also interviewed twice by Radio Shropshire; firstly on Sunday 6 August and again just after receiving the awards from celebrity gardener, Joe Swift. To hear the last interview, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059xc5r#play and listen on the time line from about 22.00 to 26.00. This is available on “listen-again” only for a limited time.

Well done Carol!


Please click on pictures to see a larger version.

The Mike Hough memorial trophy held by Carol and Chris

The Mike Hough memorial trophy held by Carol and Chris

Sundance Humanist Garden

Sundance Humanist Garden

Shelter in Sundance Humanist Garden

Shelter in Sundance Humanist Garden

Painting by Carol Seager

Painting by Carol Seager


During the 19th century, American Plains Indian tribes, gathered together annually for The Sundance. This was an opportunity to reinforce relationships with the land, animals and fellow tribesmen, through feasting, dancing and sharing. Inspired by The Sundance, the Humanist Garden promotes the values of living cooperatively, sharing abundance, celebrating creativity and reinforcing caring relationships.

With the rapid decline of the buffalo in the 19th century, many Native Americans succumbed to disease and starvation. Southern Plains Indian tribes fared better as they supplemented their diet with subsistence farming.

The planting reflects the “companion method” of planting as practiced by the Southern Plains Indian tribes. Compatible crops, such as maize, beans and squash, are mutually beneficial. Maize provides climbing support for the beans, which in turn fix nitrogen into the soil. Squash provide ground cover and suppress weeds. Tomatoes, chillies and onions are also grown together. Herbs are grown for their culinary, medicinal and soil enrichment qualities. For example, the inclusion of chamomile, marigold and comfrey, provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, silicon, nitrogen and magnesium. Flowers such as nasturtiums attract black fly away from beans, and sunflowers attract pollinators. Espalier fruit trees (dwarf stock) are ideal for a small space and add to the variety of produce.

The central sculptural structure in the garden is suggestive of a teepee that appears to be collapsing. This reflects the fate of the Native Americans as buffalo numbers fell from 60 million in 1800 to just 750 in 1890. A pebble fountain bubbles beneath the teepee and yellow stone pathways radiate outwards. Between the rays of the path grow the crops, herbs and flowers. A covered decking area provides shelter and a place for cooking, eating, relaxing and socialising. Artisan arts and crafts such as pottery, basketry, textiles and glass, celebrate creativity and diversity.

Sundance, the Humanist Garden, can be viewed as a metaphor for shared human values, despite differing ethnicity or faith, and for the benefits of both cultural diversity and cooperation. The garden illustrates the co-existence of disparate groups working together in peace and harmony, drawn together by their interdependence and their common humanity.

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