What We Do

Horatio’s Garden is a national charity creating and nurturing beautiful gardens in NHS spinal injury centres to support everyone affected by spinal injury. We grow thriving communities to support patients, their families and friends facing long stays in NHS hospitals.

Leading landscape designers create these stunning sanctuaries, working in collaboration with prominent architects to design garden rooms ensuring the space can be used all year round. The gardens become an integral part of people’s lives throughout their time in hospital.

The charity is named after Horatio Chapple, a volunteer who had the original idea of creating a garden away from the wards for patients and their families.

Spinal cord injuries are traumatic, life-changing events. Patients often have little or no access to the outside world during their hospital stay. However, research shows that being in contact with a natural environment contributes to an improved sense of wellbeing, which can have a positive impact on patient rehabilitation. 

In each project the charity funds a Head Gardener who leads a team of volunteers caring for the garden and offering creative and therapeutic activities. These include gardening, art, live music, seasonal events and artists’ residencies, as well as endless tea and homemade cake. All our volunteers share an enjoyment of being in the garden and contribute to the happy, uplifting atmosphere which permeates each Horatio’s Garden; some are former patients and some are young ‘Volunteens’ seeking life experiences.

To date we have opened four gardens in Salisbury, Glasgow, Stoke Mandeville and Oswestry. We are currently working on projects in London and Cardiff and our vision is to create a thriving Horatio’s Garden in every NHS spinal injury centre. 

Our Values

Empathic

Patients are at the heart of everything we do. We are compassionate, caring, kind and inclusive. The gardens enrich the lives of all those associated with them.

Committed

We are dedicated to supporting people affected by spinal injury and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We actively encourage diversity and welcome involvement from all sectors of society.

Inspiring

Our gardens are pioneering and innovative places of exceptional standard. We are staffed by outstanding, enthusiastic employees, trustees and volunteers. We champion the benefits of gardens to health.

Integrity

We are professional, ethical, accountable and evidence based. Everyone associated with the charity is trustworthy and there is a core of strong governance. We respect the confidentiality of everyone.

Sustainability

We nurture all our gardens to ensure their longevity. We have a positive impact on the environment. Our financial strategy and fundraising plans provide long term security for the future.

“The first time I went into the garden I was overwhelmed with tears and a sense of relief and excitement that there was somewhere to go other than the ward.”

Garden Therapy

The charity’s head gardeners, assisted by volunteers, run regular garden therapy sessions with patients in collaboration with the hospitals’ occupational therapy teams. Patients enjoy the purposeful activities which gardening offers for rehabilitation.

Patient-specific therapeutic and rehabilitative goals are set which focus on maximising social, cognitive, physical and psychological functioning to enhance general health and wellness.

Weather permitting, sessions are run outside and engage patients in all aspects of plant cultivation using specialist tools. Nothing is left to waste – we eat, re-use and sell our produce which adds to patients’ feelings of purpose, pride and achievement.

Equipped with new skills, many patients return home with a new or renewed passion for gardening.

“It gives patients the opportunity to see themselves in a community and this helps them prepare for when they leave the spinal unit.” – Dr. Fard, Consultant in Spinal Injuries. 

Tea & Cake

A welcome and essential part of each Horatio’s Garden is tea and homemade cake. Each garden has a fully accessible and well-stocked garden room where patients can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, a piece of cake and a chat. The garden rooms are also places to meet other patients, invite friends and family, or to just sit in to read a book or newspaper. Volunteers regularly bake delicious treats for the patients and visitors.

Time away from the ward in an informal and relaxing setting can be very beneficial, as patients are often in hospital for long periods of time. Of those who visit the garden at least once a week, nearly half visit every day or more. 

“Thank you for the cakes and drinks, you all make everyone feel included and special.”

Art in the Gardens

Each year we invite an artist to put on an exhibition in the gardens. Throughout the summer months different artists in residence draw and paint alongside patients in the gardens. Often patients get involved and start painting themselves. A ‘Looking Out’ project, run by artist in residence Miranda Creswell in Salisbury, has culminated in pictures featuring an ordnance survey map of the view from the patient’s room and the many features that make up the view. This project has been extended to the second Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow.  

Twice yearly there are also sculpture exhibitions, which give the gardens a new dimension. Patients get the opportunity to meet the artists and experience thought-provoking art on a daily basis. Ben Barrell’s installation in the garden in Salisbury during 2018 was immensely popular. Other sculptors’ work we have exhibited include Mark Coreth, David Worthington, Rebecca Newnham, Simon Gudgeon, Fiamma Colonna-Montagu, Sean Henry, Bruce Munro and Julian Wild.

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