the bbc gardeners’ question time team record live in horatio’s garden london & south east!

We’re excited to share that a very special edition of BBC Radio 4’Gardeners’ Question Time aired on Friday 23rd July at 3pm, with the episode recorded live in Horatio’s Garden London & South East last week! 

To catch up on BBC Sounds, please click here 

Alternatively, please tune in to BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 25th July at 2pm to listen to the repeated programme.

To find out more about Horatio’s Garden London & South East, please click here

As regular listeners will know, Head Gardener Ashley Edwards has been sporadically appearing as one of the feature presenters for the programme, but this occasion marked his first time being on the panel and offered him the perfect opportunity to take listeners through Tom Stuart-Smith’s thoughtful design for the garden. 

Dauntingly, Ashley appeared alongside three seasoned Gardeners’ Question Time panelists, all of whom are huge stars in the horticultural world and in the realms beyond. Together Matthew Biggs, Christine Walkden and designer of Horatio’s Garden Midlands, Bunny Guinness, all joined us in the garden, as did brilliant host Peter Gibbs and enthusiastic producer Dan Cocker. 

With volunteers and patients still able to use the garden with the recording in progress, it was wonderful for everyone to watch the team create the episode and to see them having fun whilst working together to answer as many of the public’s burning gardening questions as possible. There are certainly a few intriguing ones featuring in this week’s episode, but we’ll leave you to listen to discover those for yourself! 

In between getting to grips with the nation’s queries, Ashley was generously given the time to introduce listeners to the charity and its mission, whilst he also gave people an insight into the two sides of the garden and how the planting was carefully chosen to lend a sociable aspect to one and a calmer aspect to the other.


Additionally, he also shared more about the immensely positive impact the haven has had on countless people’s lives since Horatio’s Garden opened last August, as well as emphasising the importance of accessible gardening. 

This was something attested to in the episode by Steven too, a patient who has recently spent a number of weeks in the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre (LSCIC). He shared more about the physical and mental benefits he’s felt since he became a daily visitor to the garden, providing listeners with a gently informative insight into just how vital the oasis has been for him and indeed for his fellow patients. 

The Gardeners’ Question Time team all agreed that Steven gave a brilliant interview, whilst they similarly sang Ashley’s praises for sailing through the recording so professionally. Everyone also thanked the garden team and volunteers profusely for their kindness, whilst they echoed each other when sharing their reflections on the day. 

Having recently visited Horatio’s Garden Midlands, Bunny mentioned how fantastic it was to see the garden she designed flourishing and that it was a pleasure to discover another of the charity’s projects thriving in London. She was keen to hear more about Tom’s approach to the garden and Ashley’s plans for its future, whilst she also asked a great deal about Sarah Price’s inspirations for Horatio’s Garden Wales and how the project was progressing. She eagerly investigated the charity’s intentions for Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland too, which we were only too happy to tell her more about. 

Meanwhile, Matthew Biggs was sure to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone for making the occasion such a happy event. He appreciated how welcoming everyone was, made a point of mentioning the “top notch” hospitality and that it was humbling and inspiring to see how horticulture is changing people’s lives in a fantastic garden full of lovely plants and people. Indeed, he was so impressed with one of the cakes he tried that he asked after the recipe, saying he’d be sharing it with fellow panelist Christine, who was rather fond of it too! 

Aside from echoing Matthew’s sentiments regarding the irresistible refreshments, Christine also shared that it was fabulous to see all that goes on in the garden, to witness a beautiful place being created and most importantly to be able to tangibly feel the care shown to everyone entering the garden. Feeling warmly welcomed too, she thanked the whole team for her heavenly visit, said how nice it was to spend time with such passionate people, whilst also professing her gratitude for the way in which the team instill hope into people’s lives through greenery. 

With a final flattering word, host Peter Gibbs essentially summed up the team’s feelings; that Horatio’s Garden is “the perfect example of a therapeutic garden and the power of plants”. 

We’re enormously grateful to the Gardeners’ Question Time team for all their kind words and for featuring us in this and many other episodes. We hope you enjoyed listening to the show as much as we enjoyed recording it and fingers crossed it won’t be long before we see some familiar faces once again return to Horatio’s Garden. 

brighton seagals fc complete their road to tokyo fundraising challenge!

We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that the Brighton Seagals Football Club have completed their Road to Tokyo challenge in support of Horatio’s Garden! 

The team, who play in the Sussex County Women and Girls Football League, have been raising awareness of the charity both at their matches and with their remarkable fundraising endeavour, which has raised a brilliant total. 

There’s still time to donate, so please click here to contribute to the Brighton Seagals’ JustGiving page! 

Over 28 weeks, everyone has pulled together to walk, run, cycle, skate, kitesurf and paddleboard the equivalent distance from the Seagals’ training ground in Brighton to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The journey is 5,986 miles in total (no mean feat!) and thanks to a final, record-breaking push that covered 514.1 miles this week alone, they’ve surpassed their target and completed a grand total of 6,131 miles ahead of schedule.


Their aim was to finish their challenge ahead of the Women’s Olympic Gold Medal match on Friday 6th August and we are immensely impressed that they’ve managed to do it with a whole 16 days to spare; just in time for Team GB’s kick-off against Chile! 

It was player Tara Barratt who kindly suggested that Horatio’s Garden be the team’s nominated charity for the season and since then we’ve been emblazoned across the Seagals’ social media channels with the nomination of every Player of the Match. The team have also generously and proudly displayed our logo on their matchday graphics to help spread the word about what we do. 

We are enormously grateful to every single Brighton Seagal for going above and beyond in helping Horatio’s Garden and hope the team are taking a well-deserved rest for the foreseeable future! 

scarlett’s story

Meet Scarlett 

Scarlett is an active 11-year-old sitting her SATs. She shares her south London home with her Mum and Dad, three sisters and one baby brother. Like many schoolgirls she loves singing, dancing and drama, but loathes spiders and wasps! She has a pet tortoise called Harry. All sounds very normal and all was very normal until one day at the end of September 2020… 

Scarlett complained of a pain, which her parents found difficult to ignore. By the end of the evening, she could not feel her legs. She was quickly taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. A swift MRI scan revealed a cavernoma on her spine which had burst. A cavernoma is often described as a raspberry-like cluster of abnormal blood vessels, usually found in the brain but sometimes attached to the spinal cord. It can cause seizures and stroke-like symptoms. Scarlett was operated on immediately and spent two days in intensive care. After two weeks at St George’s, she was transferred to the paediatric ward at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. 

Although Scarlett is on the Children’s Ward rather than spending time in the spinal centre, she has been able to have her rehabilitation session in Horatio’s Garden at the hospital, working with Head Gardener, Ashley Edwards, and Garden Administrator, Tracey McCarthy. 

Scarlett’s father, Michael, said “Her first visit to the garden was magical. She found it so peaceful and particularly liked the bright furniture and the way the garden was laid out.”

Scarlett in the greenhouse 

Horatio’s Garden is well-known for providing valuable respite from the pressures of life on the ward, but for children who have no experience of being in hospital it is especially valuable. In the weeks Scarlett has spent there, as well as keeping all her schoolwork up to date, she has taken an active part in ‘garden life’. 

During her sessions in the run up to the festive season she stripped willow for Christmas wreaths, handprinted Christmas cards and wrapping paper, learnt how to master a sewing machine, soon sowing her own patchwork cushion, made a soft toy (called Wonky) for her brother and another for her sister, whilst she also enjoyed some horticultural therapy thinning lettuces in the greenhouse! 

Tracey McCarthy of Horatio’s Garden said, “Both Scarlett and her dad have shared how friendly it is in the garden. They have remarked on the calm atmosphere and how safe the environment is for them both. It clearly offers relief from the physiotherapy and the schoolwork, but most importantly it gives Scarlett time to be a child, be herself and have a little taste of fun.” 

Whilst Scarlett isn’t yet quite sure of what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s evidently ready to make the most of whatever her future holds.  

And one thing is for certain; regardless of whether she decides to become a master craftswoman, or the next Rachel de Thamethere will always be a very warm welcome awaiting Scarlett and her family in Horatio’s Garden London & South East. 

helen baly is our new photographer in residence in horatio’s garden midlands!

Helen Baly is our new photographer in residence in Horatio’s Garden Midlands! 

She recently visited the sanctuary for the very first time, meeting her fellow artist in residence Claire Waltier MacGillivray, Head Gardener Imogen Jackson, the garden’s volunteers and a great gathering of patients and their loved ones. 

Describing her first session as ‘wonderful’ and sharing that she loved every minute of meeting and working with so many people in the summer sunshine, already she’s made plans for how she’ll be inspiring everyone in her workshops throughout the month. 

Whilst experimenting with mini macro lenses was always on her list, the glorious weather meant she decided to start the sessions with this brilliant piece of photographic equipment.  

A small group of patients and visitors actively joined her, with countless others observing and vowing to join in with the fun the next time she visits the garden. Clipping the mini macro lenses to everyone’s phones, those gathered had a brilliant time testing them and trialled all kinds of approaches to assess which ones achieved the best photographs, of which you’ll see a small selection below.


The woodland area of the garden is currently a hive of bee activity, as here they can take shelter from the breeze, whilst it is also filled with an array of beautiful blooms. Naturally, this led to the group largely gathering here, where the sights and sounds of wildlife enjoying the garden were prolific and well worth capturing. 

Working with several people, Helen gently offered advice on how to zoom in on the group’s chosen subject, which resulted in some incredible shots being taken by both people spending time in the haven and by Helen herself (a selection of Helen’s gorgeous images feature in the slideshow at the bottom of this page). With the photographs being so impressive, Helen hopes to put together a slideshow of all the images at the end of her residency in Horatio’s Garden, which will be shared with patients, their loved ones and us very soon. 

The afternoon was full of laughs and chatter, with everyone collaborating and getting involved with the fun phone photography exercises which were designed to suit all. Learning something new and being able to put this knowledge to stunning use really meant a lot to many and as word has spread, rumour has it that more patients are keen to attend next week’s session. 

As a professional portrait and wedding photographer based in north Shropshire, Helen loves meeting new characters and relishes the variety her work brings. She’s always adored photography, often taking pictures as a child of all the things she found to be beautiful or loved. 

Whilst she might be trained as a retail and promotional designer, she became a professional photographer not long after taking a course in 2001, which led to her taking a leap of faith, leaving her previous job and starting her dream one. Naturally, she’s never looked back. 

Aside from being a fantastic, friendly photographer, Helen is an artist too. Her work largely comprises of portraits of houses and fine art paintings of wildlife, but occasionally she feels the lure of the abstract and paints vast, unexpected pieces too. 

Being someone with such a passion for multiplicity, we have no doubt that Helen will find her time in Horatio’s Garden Midlands immensely fulfilling, whilst those who join her to discover the delights of photography will undoubtedly feel inspired and invigorated by her presence. 

another chapter of creative writing with jayne woodhouse in horatio’s garden south west

Horatio’s Garden South West has now been hosting Jayne Woodhouse, our new Creative Writer in Residence, for a few weeks and people visiting the garden are becoming increasingly intrigued by what she’s up to. 

A small gathering periodically stopped to speak to Jayne during her most recent workshop, when she was only too happy to share more about her work and how they too could make the most of the garden by using it as a source of inspiration for storytelling. 

A few shared that they would consider her advice over the coming week and that if their afternoon schedule allowed, they may well join her in artfully jotting their thoughts down on paper soon. 

Fortunately, one enthusiastic man did have the time to sit alongside Jayne, with her sharing that the two had an amazing afternoon penning acrostics and haiku poems together. Having enjoyed the session so much, he went away with a notebook Jayne had to hand so that he could continue writing in between Jayne’s weekly visits to the garden. 

Having spent so many hours sporadically writing, chatting and laughing, Jayne noticed that he was, as she put it, ‘a naturally gifted writer’ and that it would be exciting to see his work develop. 

As for the patient, he told Jayne that she had really helped him and that the writing itself had been a joy, giving him a focus and a way to fill his time purposefully for the foreseeable future. He really appreciated working with Jayne and relished the opportunity to learn something new too. 

With countless passers-by happily engaging in Jayne’s work, she shared that she feels really welcome in the garden and that she’s felt that same warmth emanating from the charity as a whole. 

For Jayne, the sense that she’s made a small contribution to people’s lives is a privilege. 

For us, it’s a privilege to see her in the garden and we’re certain that the difference she is making is far greater than she modestly gives herself credit for. It will be a pleasure to watch many more rewarding weeks of her residency unfold. 

matt writtle’s photographic residency continues in horatio’s garden london & south east

Matt Writtle has once again returned to Horatio’s Garden London & South East and this time there were more people waiting to join him on his photographic exploration of the sanctuary. 

The small group gathered outside to chat with Matt and get to know him a little better, before they headed off to take their own photos and put his technical advice into practice. 

Two of those who joined have been working with Matt since he was first introduced to the oasis a few weeks ago, sharing that they have been taking photographs in his absence as and when they feel inspired or when something catches their eye. 

After both mentioned that they were wondering where to head artistically next, Matt encouraged everyone to dedicate just 20 minutes to taking as many shots as possible and then choosing only their favourite three. 

Willingly, everyone ventured to various areas of the garden to capture the elements they felt were most interesting, or indeed representative of them as individuals, coming back to Matt and the group with some great results. 

Matt was really impressed and enjoyed seeing the progress many people have already made by applying the tips and tricks they’ve learned in just a handful of sessions. 

Particularly moving was the considerate approach of one patient, who decided to take photographs of the garden reflecting her feelings, which currently centre around thoughts of home and leaving hospital. Matt noted two especially stirring images, one which depicted her own face reflected in a fishbowl, the other a strikingly composed composition of the pathway leading out of the garden. 

We’re really pleased to see and hear that everyone is continuing to gain a great deal from Matt’s residency, and we will be perpetually intrigued to discover how each person, Matt included, sees the garden through their unique lens. 

therapeutic art in horatio’s garden midlands continues thanks to claire waltier macgillivray

Artist in residence Claire Waltier MacGillivray is now very much a part of Horatio’s Garden Midlands, with word spreading far and wide about her weekly sessions in the garden. 

Whilst she was already personally aware of how much people were appreciating her artistic support, innovative ideas and wealth of watercolours, this week she was touched when both a doctor and a nurse took the time to seek her out in the garden. They both shared that Claire’s time in the haven was evidently of great benefit to their patients and that the creative pursuit in and of itself was working therapeutic wonders. 

With the weather encouraging many to venture out into the garden, lots of people stopped to speak to Claire, looking carefully at her paintings and mentioning that they will certainly be a source of inspiration when they hopefully join her for an afternoon in the near future. 

Fortunately, a small gathering of people had a handful of hours to spare, which they gladly spent painting with Claire. 

One man decided to focus on a bunch of strawberries, which he’s been eagerly studying for weeks in anticipation of them ripening. Now that they’re coming to harvest time, he felt it was the perfect moment to capture their vibrant scarlet hues, particularly as he suspects they may well be picked by himself and his fellow fruit enthusiasts soon! 

Meanwhile, another lady, who has limited use of her hands, worked closely with Claire, who offered to paint on her behalf. After she took a liking to a particularly beautiful vase of flowers on one of the tables in the garden room, Claire recreated the display according to the lady’s observational cues. She then made the painting into a card, meaning the lady who joined her has since been able to appreciate the astrantia and its accompanying blooms on the ward too. 

With so many activities once again going on the garden, Claire has heard many people relishing their ability to retreat to the oasis, understanding their appreciation and happiness with simply spending time outside. 

connecting communities: ashley edwards speaks as part of pan uk summer series

This week, Head Gardener of Horatio’s Garden London & South East, Ashley Edwards, featured in a series of fantastic online conversations hosted by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK).

Ashley appeared as part of the third thoughtful discussion, Connecting Communities, joining a brilliant panel that attracted over 130 live attendees. Together with ecologically focussed grower and star of Channel 4’s ‘The Great Garden Revolution’, Poppy Okotcha, founder of Incredible Edible Bristol, Sara Venn and horticultural activist Sui Searle, the case was made for gardens being places that should surround us and, crucially, it was argued that these places should be accessible to all.

To watch the recorded discussion, please click here

PAN UK are the only charity in the country who promote using safe, sustainable alternatives to hazardous pesticides, which are often problematically sprayed in public spaces throughout our local communities. 

Going pesticide-free requires councils, local organisations and residents to work together to find adapted solutions, which is PAN UK’s ultimate aim. As such, they hope that their recent series of talks will help everyone to make moves in the right direction by highlighting the importance of valuing green spaces and wildlife in our cities. 

The Reassembling Our Cities programme consists of four talks in total: Our Resilient Neighbours, celebrating the plants on our streets and how they came to be there; Space for Us All, investigating the diversity of our urban wildlife; Connecting Communities, examining the potential of our green urban areas to be varied and generous spaces for all and finally Abundant Green Networks, which reimagines our urban spaces as a patchwork of solutions to our many diverse needs.

The Connecting Communities discussion was both brilliant and insightful, just as the rest of the PAN UK summer series has been. We’re delighted to have seen Ashley making a meaningful contribution alongside countless others and hope that it has helped to make everyone more aware of and active in supporting PAN UK’s mission.

mohammed’s story

Mohammed’s life changed forever on an unexpectedly idyllic spring day. 

Tempted by the warm weather, he and a friend decided to make the most of the sunshine by spending the afternoon cycling. 

The temperature was pleasant. The breeze non-existent. 

In short, the two were pursuing their shared passion in perfect conditions. 

And then Mohammed saw something. 

He noticed a tree that was just beginning to sway a little too much out of the corner of his eye. 

He didn’t know why the tree had begun to fall on such a still day. 

But he did know that the tree was going to hit him. 

“It was extraordinary, really. But in all the time since it happened, I’ve never thought, ‘why me?’ I have no regret. I simply accepted what happened and saw it as a challenge. Being truly honest, I’m just enormously grateful for what I have.” 

Mohammed has so far spent three months in the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore and despite the cause of his injuries, he has found more solace in nature than he ever thought possible. 

“My whole experience here would have been so much harder without the garden. The garden offers you solitude from the ward, lending you time to think and reflect, which is a particularly wonderful thing to do in such a nice environment.” 

“It’s been a life-saver.” 

A consultant urologist by profession, Mohammed has long been familiar with clinical environments, both prior to and during the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Whilst the lure of the great outdoors has always been a powerful presence in his life, he acknowledges that it’s only since his spinal cord injury and since he ventured into Horatio’s Garden London & South East that he’s been able to wholeheartedly appreciate the things we tend to take for granted. 

“The garden has really made a difference during the Covid period. When we weren’t allowed visitors, the world felt very small. But then you go to the garden and it feels like you’re somewhere away from it all. With the music on the Bank Holiday, it felt like the Caribbean!” 

“Patience and gratitude are the things you need. Before, I didn’t appreciate the little things in life. The flowers, talking to people, everything. The garden is the nucleus of the ward and it’s the nice thing about being here. I’ve become friends with many people and outside you can just spend time with each other, learn from each other and discover how everyone’s doing when it comes to navigating their injuries.” 

“A spinal cord injury resets your parameters. It makes you refine what you think is important. You realise your core values, which predominantly, for me at least, are doing positive things for other people and spending time with family and friends.” 

Fortunately, since arriving in hospital, Mohammed has been able to see his loved ones, with his wife and children often making the journey to visit him in hospital. 

“Most people can’t believe it when they visit. Whenever my family and friends have come to see me, they love it just as I do. It so lovely to have people here and the pods in particular are a godsend. It’s amazing and I can’t imagine how people coped without it.” 

It will be several years before Mohammed knows the potential extent of his recovery, but he’s accepted that whatever will be, will be. 

“I’m certainly looking forward to getting home, but I will always remember the garden and everything it has given me.” 

“It’s all about breaking it down, taking it week by week, looking back and seeing what you’ve achieved; seeing the positives. For me, the most important thing is that I have my hands, which means it hopefully won’t be long until I can return to surgery.’

His serene, yet steadfast, sense of optimism is stirring. 

“I’ve noticed the parallels between Horatio’s story and those of people like me with spinal cord injuries. Despite adversity, despite a life-changing experience, here there is proof that so much positivity can come from such things.” 

“There’s a reason that the tree didn’t hit and kill me. It paralysed me. We all find it difficult to accept events that lead to uncertainty, or to terrible things, but all we need to learn is to let go of that.” 

“We like certainty, but in reality, it’s stressful. A spinal cord injury is uncertain, which is why setting yourself small goals and achieving them is where you gain positivity.” 

“Ultimately, I return to this again and again; you don’t know your true character until you’ve faced adversity.” 

welcoming wrags trainee donna brogan to horatio’s garden scotland!

It’s been a pleasure to welcome Donna Brogan to Horatio’s Garden Scotland, who this week began working with us in her new role as a Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme (WRAGS) Trainee, an initiative run by the Women’s Farm and Garden Association (WFGA). 

Already we’ve seen that Donna will be a warm, welcoming and enthusiastic presence in the garden, just as her WRAGS predecessor, Chelsea Lowe, was when she spent a year with us in Glasgow. Coincidentally and rather remarkably, we wished Chelsea all the best for her future exactly one year ago, so we have no doubt that Donna will be following in her fantastic footsteps. 

Being passionate about gardening, Donna has wasted no time in busying herself amongst the planting, whilst she’s also met a few patients who have been exploring the garden alongside her. 

With the WRAG Scheme requiring Donna to work two days a week in any garden, she will be joining the team in Horatio’s Garden Scotland every Tuesday for the next 12 months, whilst she will also be enjoying another garden on a different day of the week. 

Donna is keen to hone her horticultural skills and the WFGA is certainly best placed to help her. A registered charity, the WFGA was founded back in 1899 by women concerned about a lack of education and employment opportunities for women working on the land. Many years later, in 1993, the Association launched the WRAG Scheme, created as a way of offering a practical, educational opportunity for trainee gardeners to learn from expert head gardeners and owners. 

We’re thrilled that Donna has joined us for what promises to be an exciting year. She will be a total asset and we’re really looking forward to seeing her flourish with the support of Head Gardener Sallie Sillars in preparation for her budding career as a successful plantswoman. 

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