Spring is a busy time in Horatio’s Garden and patients have been enjoying making the most of the brighter days, either by taking part in gentle horticultural therapy sessions, or by embracing their creativity. 

In Salisbury, those joining volunteer Sheila in the weekly art group have loved having a space to produce works in their own artistic styles, whilst some have also been tempted to try new ways of working. Patients have created everything from sea-themed collages to atmospheric black and white paintings, which have all suitably impressed everyone spending time in the garden room.  

One particular patient never misses the session, not only because he enjoys chatting with Sheila but because since arriving at the spinal centre he has found great joy in sketching. Whilst he’s attempted many art forms with success throughout his stay, his preference for using a simple biro to create wonderfully detailed works continues to fascinate his fellow patients, their loved ones and anyone who happens to catch a glimpse of him quietly working. He’s certainly become a friend to everyone in Horatio’s Garden and happily spends his days capturing scenes, objects, people and pets that mean a lot to those spending time on the ward. Once finished, he gifts them back to those who asked for them as a keepsakeHis kindness is appreciated by everyone and so far, every work has gone to a very grateful new owner.


Artist in residence, Katy McIntyre-Brown, has also continued working in the garden alongside patients. Together a group recently spent a sunny afternoon in the garden room capturing the beauty of some seed heads, which were grown in Horatio’s Garden. Katy experimented with different versions of the still life, eventually working with single paint colours and pencil, a technique referred to as ‘monochrome’. This generally creates a subtle, soft result, akin to an old sepia photograph, reflecting the calm afternoon she enjoyed in the garden.


Meanwhile, horticultural therapist Susie Atterbury showed us that there’s a gardener inside everyone, as patients and volunteers had a lot of fun creating these bright and beautiful kokedamas. Incorporating snowdrops and daffodils was a sure way to brighten February and everyone was thrilled with the results.


Gardening has also been popular in Glasgow, with seed sowing certainly coming along nicely. Head Gardener and Horticultural Therapist, Sallie Sillars, also recently held a fabulous flower arranging workshop, where patients used greenery, daffodils and tulips from the garden to create a host of lovely displays. These are now scattered throughout the spinal centre and the garden pods, suitably brightening every available surface! The session was a great opportunity for patients to catch up and was particularly appreciated by the many ladies currently spending time in the NSIU, who have formed strong bonds with each other throughout their stays.

Alongside the gardening group, the art group has transformed creative reluctance into interest and enthusiasm by holding a pottery making and painting session. The activity was all about sculpting small air-dried clay shapes, which focussed on a pinching technique and hand rolling to flex the finger and hand muscles. Afterwards, it was unanimously agreed that the workshop was the perfect way to combine creative thinking with a gentle touch of hand dexterity rehabilitation. 

Stoke Mandeville’s first Quilting, Knitting and Nattering gathering in the garden room went really well too, with several patients joining volunteers Judy, Kate and Liz who ran the session. As per the title, everyone enjoyed getting to know their fellow natterers and lots of people are looking forward to meeting at the next group soon. 

Similarly, the team held its first ‘Poetry and Patisseries’ workshop, which involved sharing both poems and cakes in the garden room and on the wards. Volunteers Sue, Julia and Pauline coordinated the afternoon, during which time laughter, memories and reminders of favourite verses were shared. The group even produced its first collaborative poem, The Éclair, which was so loved by patients that plans are now in place to meet on the last Thursday of every month. 

Following Oswestry’s recent marimba making workshop, patients have now begun to decorate the slates which will eventually make up the communal instrument. Drawing inspiration from the spring blooms around them, the slates currently feature snowdrops, daffodils and various other green scenes, so we’re certain the instrument will be ablaze with colour once complete. 

Gardening also formed a big part of the month, with patients really enjoying creating little wire air plant holders. These are ideal for displaying the plants and as they make a lovely table decoration (or paperweight!) many now reside beside patients’ beds on the ward.  

Similarly, patients and volunteers embraced the opportunity to work together on various floral displays. Despite the fact that none of those taking part had ever attempted flower arranging before, everyone showed a real flair for the art and their creations were the epitome of all things bright and beautiful!

Many patients and families tell us that it’s the little things that make a difference whilst they spend time in any one of the NHS spinal injury centres and its lovely to feel that so tangibly in these latest stories from all our gardens. As Horatio’s Garden continues to grow, we hope to be able to share many more like them in future.