WHEN you've fallen off as many horses as the Princess Royal during her distinguished riding career, a set of garden steps, however, strangely cambered, presents no real danger.

And so it was at RHS Malvern Spring Festival, where the royal visitor safely negotiated the disorientation of a garden designed to replicate the problems encountered by sufferers of Parkinson's.

When warned by her entourage the exercise might be a bit challenging, the Royal response was: "Oh come on. Let's give it a go."

Which she did, much to the pleasure of Ruth Gwynn from Birlingham, near Pershore, who had designed the Living with Parkinson's show garden - built by her husband Rupert's firm Keyscape - to support a family member who has the disease.

"I tried to include all the disorientation that Parkinson's induces," Mrs Gwynn explained.

"Like changing levels and unexpected features."

Hence there was a hedge with a hidden door in and the strange steps. The effort proved a hit with RHS judges, who gave it a silver-gilt flora award.

Even more highly rated, with a gold award, was the garden designed and built by Jason Hales of Villaggio Verde of Martley, which brought a touch of the Mediterranean to the Malverns.

"As soon as I saw the plot we had been allocated on the Three Counties Showground, with the Malvern Hills as a backdrop, I had this idea of a Spanish island garden," he said.

"With the white houses on the hillside, it was just like you get in places like Ibiza."

To turn the idea into reality, Mr Hales used 50 tons of sea sand, scooped from the bottom of the ocean, a mass of Mediterranean plants and built an old Spanish-style beach house.

As the Princess Royal admired his work, he was able to tell her his company had supplied all the olive trees used at Prince Charles' residence Highgrove House.

The Princess spent more than three hours touring the showground, receiving an especially enthusiastic welcome in the schools garden area, where she was literally besieged by youngsters.

At the garden of Tudor Grange Academy, Worcester, which given a commended award, she was shown around by 14-years-old Ryan Gray of Eskdale Close, Warndon, while on the stand of Abberley Parochial Primary , which was high commended, the honour went to Josh Cook, aged 10, of Abberley.