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.”

Exceptional Gardens

The charity’s beautiful, perennial gardens are thoughtfully designed by leading landscape designers, who understand the importance of creating a safe and fully accessible space for patients and their loved ones. Everything is carefully considered and 57% of the cost of each Horatio’s Garden is incurred simply as a result of having to create a specialist garden for acutely ill patients in a clinical environment. 

Despite being on-site in a busy hospital, all the gardens are designed to be incredibly quiet. Hedges and fences are in place to reduce the noise from surrounding car parks, as well as from people toing and froing from neighbouring hospital buildings. 

Clever planting ensures that the gardens are calm, welcoming places, where all the plants and flowers have been carefully chosen to stimulate the different senses and encourage wildlife.  

Each acclaimed garden designer collaborates with a prominent architect to create the interior spaces of the garden, which include accessible garden rooms and garden pods. These offer patients and their loved ones the chance to appreciate the garden all year round, either alone or in company. 

The charity’s outstanding gardens are noted for their excellence, particularly by the Society of Garden Designers who believe that “this is what healing gardens should be like”. We are regularly approached by other projects for advice and we are keen to share all that we’ve learnt over the past eight years. 

Every Horatio’s Garden is a sanctuary with a positive purpose, so much so that you often forget that you are in a hospital, instead feeling almost like you are at home. 

Horticultural Therapy

The charity’s Head Gardeners and Horticultural Therapists run regular garden therapy sessions, which are assisted by volunteers and run in collaboration with the spinal centres’ Occupational Therapy teams. 

All the activities are designed to complement the clinical care provided by NHS staff and support patients’ physical and mental wellbeing. Patients can join in with the charity’s group gardening workshops, whilst they can also set themselves specific therapeutic and rehabilitative goals in one-to-one sessions. 

Garden therapy is all about maximizing people’s social, cognitive, physical and psychological functioning to enhance general health and wellness. 

Furthermore, equipped with new skills, many patients return home with a new or renewed passion for gardening, meaning they can continue to benefit from and enjoy tending to their plants beyond Horatio’s Garden. 

Weather-permitting, the sessions are run outside and engage patients in all aspects of plant cultivation using specialist tools. Nothing is left to waste either, as we eat, reuse and sell our produce, which enhances patients’ feelings of purpose and achievement. 

really enjoy garden therapy. It’s lovely to just feel my hands in the soil.” 

Art Therapy

Along with the regular horticultural therapy sessions, patients are also encouraged to explore their creativity in the charity’s weekly art therapy workshops. 

Patients often draw inspiration from Horatio’s Garden, regardless of whether they’re accomplished or amateur artists. Those who have always painted or drawn find comfort in the garden, as it allows them to continue to pursue this pleasure throughout their time in hospital.

Equally, many patients often arrive at the spinal centre having never attempted art before and are pleasantly surprised by how much they are able to do. The sessions, which are led by either the charity’s volunteers or professional artists, encourage patients to try new creative techniques and pursuits, whether that be in painting, drawing and crafting, or in reading and writing.

The groups are all about giving patients the chance to explore their own emotions, whilst also offering them to opportunity to form closer personal bonds with other people visiting and spending time in the spinal centre. 

The charity is lucky to be supported by a whole host of artists too, who either regularly visit the gardens to hold workshops throughout the year, or who become artists in residence

Notable sculptors too lend their work to Horatio’s Garden, which prompts spontaneous conversation and creative response. 

“I love doing activities out in Horatio’s Garden. There’s such a brilliant atmosphere.” 

Supporting Patients & Families

With only 11 NHS spinal injury centres in the UK, each one is responsible for patients across a vast catchment area. For example, the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow admits people from across the entirety of Scotland. 

As a result, patients’ families and friends often travel many miles to visit their loved ones in hospital.

Horatio’s Garden offers them a warm, welcoming and comfortable place where they can spend time catching up and simply enjoying each other’s company. Patients with children or grandchildren in particular find the garden to be a real lifeline during visits. 

Importantly, the gardens and garden rooms are available for loved ones to use whenever they wish, whether they’re with or without the person they’re visiting.

Patients’ families and friends also need support as they face such incredibly difficult times, therefore the gardens also give them a place to quietly think and process how life has changed. The charity’s volunteers and Head Gardeners are always waiting should they need a chat, whilst there’s also the opportunity to speak with other families going through similar experiences. 

The seasonal events held by the charity throughout the year give patients and their loved ones something to constantly look forward to and there’s always a kind and gentle buzz of atmosphere to be found in every Horatio’s Garden. 

“It’s good to have a place where you can just take some time to think and reflect on everything. Being able to sit and chat to other patients and families in the garden is a real comfort.” 

Companionship

Lots of patients and families establish firm friendships through spending time in Horatio’s Garden. The wide open, communal spaces afforded by the garden and garden room are in direct contrast to the wards, thus giving people a chance to interact without feeling they are disturbing other patients or actively interrupting someone’s visit.

As patients also spend a great deal of time alone and away from family during their time in hospital, they come to rely more and more on the companionship of their fellow patients. As spinal injuries can affect people of all ages, patients often form intergenerational friendships which are a source of unique advice and perspective.

Similarly, patients spending time in the spinal centres will all be at varying stages in their rehabilitation. Horatio’s Garden gives newly injured patients the opportunity to meet others spending time in hospital, many of whom will have already been in hospital for several weeks or months. This gives newly injured patients the option to seek help and support from those who have had more time to adjust to living with a spinal cord injury.

Family Events

Seasonal holidays can often be a difficult time for patients and families as they face extended stays in hospital. As such, the charity organises a range of events throughout the year that give everyone the opportunity to celebrate together.

In each Horatio’s Garden, Easter parties, bank holiday hog roasts and barbecues, summer weekends and Christmas festivities are all eagerly anticipated events in our annual calendar. As with all the charity’s events, patients and their loved ones have the chance to enjoy live entertainment, meeting new people and lots of delicious food, which offers everyone a well-deserved respite.

Patients and families really appreciate Horatio’s Garden for giving their seasonal visits a relaxed focus and for making them just a little bit special. The gardens and garden rooms are also there for patients and families celebrating birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other special occasions, providing a stunning setting for all kinds of events and milestones.

Performing Arts

Live performances are always welcomed by patients and loved ones alike in each Horatio’s Garden and usually consist of concerts by musicians local to each of the gardens. These consistently provide the perfect soundtrack to the family events the charity organise, usually featuring original jazz or acoustic music well-suited to a sunny afternoon amongst nature!

We have also welcomed performative storytellers to the gardens, with one performance in particular featuring acrobats in Horatio’s Garden Salisbury. Some of these performances are organised in collaboration with teams from other NHS charities and its always a pleasure to be able to work together for the benefit of visitors to the garden.

Tea & Cakes

It may seem like a simple thing, but patients, families and friends always show a deep appreciation for being able to indulge in a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake together in the garden and garden rooms.

For patients, having somewhere where they feel confident and safe enough to make help themselves and their loved ones to a warm beverage and a sweet treat is vital for their mental recovery. Not only does it mean they can feel as though they’re spending time with family and friends beyond the hospital, it also helps to prepare them for situations they are likely to face once they have left the spinal centre.

Lots of patients also appreciate the fact that the food available in Horatio’s Garden is fresh and homemade, which often serves as a heart-warming reminder of favourite recipes and dishes they will once again eat upon returning home.

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