What We Do

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres.

Leading garden designers develop the stunning sanctuaries for patients, creating an environment which becomes an integral part of their lives, as well as those of families and friends, whilst spending many months in hospital.

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. 

The charity’s volunteer teams, led by the head gardeners, keep the gardens looking beautiful, help run activities for patients and contribute to the happy, uplifting atmosphere which permeates each Horatio’s Garden. All our volunteers share an enjoyment of being in the gardens; some are former patients and some are young ‘Volunteens’ seeking life experiences.  

Horatio’s Garden provides patients with somewhere to find much-needed solace in an oasis of planting, even if on bed rest; the garden is accessible for all. Patients can take part in gentle rehabilitation activities in the gardens organised by the charity, including garden therapy, art therapy and music events.

An essential part of the atmosphere in the gardens is created by the sharing of cups of tea and homemade cakes with patients, family or friends, volunteers and staff. Our gardens are places where positive conversation and kindness is central.

“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.

Sign up for the Horatio's Garden newsletter

Contact Us