Our Salisbury Head Gardener, Stephen Hackett, recently wrote a brilliant article for Salisbury Life Magazine which has been featured in their July issue. 

The piece, entitled ‘Let It Grow’, features a variety of Salisbury gardeners who all make it their mission to contribute to the local community by creating and nurturing beautiful spaces. Each is also committed to offering a home for wildlife, enhancing the biodiversity of the whole area so it can be enjoyed by all. 

Stephen wrote at length all about Horatio’s Garden, offering his unique perspective as a gardener on all that the charity does, including the particulars of the planting that help to ensure the space offers a calm, refreshing atmosphere to all who visit. 

You can read the full article below. 


About Horatio’s Garden 

What is so special about your garden? Horatio’s Garden, Salisbury adjoins the Spinal Injury Centre at Salisbury District Hospital. The garden provides a beautiful and peaceful space for patients and their visitors at the Spinal Injury Centre. The garden was designed by award-winning garden designer Cleve West. 

When did your garden first open and how has it changed over the years? Horatio’s Garden Salisbury opened in 2012. The main difference over 7 years has been the ‘filling out’ of the herbaceous planting, so that the main borders are now densely planted and bare soil is hard to find. This is, of course, great both for the look of the garden and for wildlife, with an astonishing volume of herbaceous growth in a relatively small area. It does, of course, pose challenges when it comes to access – the middle of the main borders tends to be left more or less untouched throughout the summer months. On the other hand, such dense planting means little room for weeds to insert themselves. 

What kind of plants, flowers, and outdoor displays can people see this summer? Summer in Horatio’s Garden is dominated by a succession of herbaceous perennials. Alliums, Stachys byzantine (Lambs’ Ears), Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian), Linaria purpurea (Purple Toadflax), and Chamerion angustifolium ‘Albus’ (White Rosebay Willowherb) – all look wonderful at midsummer. Later, through July and August, they are succeeded by swathes of Aster umbellatusAruncus dioicus ‘Horatio’ (Goatsbeard) and self-seeded Fennel. Dahlias too are dotted through the borders to add a splash of late-season colour, and will continue flowering until the first frosts.  

And at other times of year? We aim to have the longest flowering season possible, as this provides interest for patients and visitors, as well as being good for wildlife. The year begins with snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) and Hellebores, then Narcissi (‘February Gold’ and ‘Thalia’), and a mass of tulips which carry us through until the herbaceous perennials get going in May. 

Anything unusual or particularly eye-catching? We had to replace some trees last winter, which left a few bare patches in the borders. These have been filled with annuals including Cleome hassleriana and Ridolfia for the summer months. Libertia grandiflora is a ‘signature’ plant in the garden, its grassy foliage lasts all year, but it comes into its own with delicate spires of white flowers in May. 

In terms of how you decide what to grow in your garden, who or what inspires you? The main garden’s planting palette was set by Cleve West’s original design, but I am always keen to use new plants which fit with the ‘feel’ of Cleve’s scheme. We also have a more flexible area with large planters and raised beds which is used for growing seasonal produce and cut flowers: the planting here is changed throughout the year to keep things fresh. 

The other big consideration is wildlife. People sometimes imagine that a ‘wildlife garden’ has to be full of nettles and brambles – but I always argue that Horatio’s Garden proves that isn’t so. Dense planting, a long flowering season, and a good variety of plant forms will attract pollinating insects and birds as well as looking wonderful. 

What do you want people to feel when they are in your garden? Calm, tranquil, relaxed and refreshed. Whether you are in the garden for 5 minutes or an hour, it should offer an oasis from the busy hospital all around. 

Have you got any exciting events coming up in the next few months? We will be open for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday 15th September. 


Your Favourite Gardens? 

What is your favourite garden in the world? For plants, Great Dixter – the late, great Christopher Lloyd’s garden in Sussex; for sentimental reasons, I am always happy in Oxford Botanical Gardens, and at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk. 

And in or around Salisbury? Horatio’s Garden, of course! 


Advice for New Gardeners 

For gardening beginners, what would you advise is the best place to start? Visit other people’s gardens and get a feel for what you like (and don’t like). Don’t let the glossy pictures of ‘perfect’ gardens in books and magazines put you off – see them in the flesh, weeds and all. Take account of where your garden is: sadly, some of our favourite plants may not be suited to the place we live. There’s no point fighting against soil and climate by trying to grow something which isn’t at home. 

For people who don’t have much space, what advice can you give for designing a garden? Plan carefully, to make the best use of available space. Less is more, so don’t use too many colours – but use texture and shape to provide variety. Be bold – in a small space a whacking great banana or some really vivid colour will be far more effective than lots of little plants. And remember that rules are there to be broken! 

Any cool plants or flowers that we might not think to grow but that you think we should have a go at growing? I used to dismiss Pelargoniums (what most people call ‘Geraniums’) as being very old-fashioned and dull – but I have recently fallen in love with them. There are hundreds of fabulous varieties – with delicious scented foliage, gorgeous deep coloured flowers and intriguing leaf-shapes. They are pretty easy to look after, and grow wonderfully in pots if you don’t have lots of space.