December 21, 2023

Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland welcomes patients, their loved ones and NHS staff for the very first time!

Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland has opened its gates to patients, their loved ones, and NHS staff at the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit in Musgrave Park Hospital for the very first time!

Thoughtfully designed by nine-time RHS Chelsea gold medal winner Andy Sturgeon, Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland will nurture the wellbeing of thousands of people adjusting to life-changing spinal injuries from across Northern Ireland for many years to come.

The accessible, restorative garden will be cared for by a dedicated team of volunteers, led by Head Gardener Matthew Lee and a Garden Administrator. Together, they will support everyone spending time in the garden and look after the beautiful planting too.

It was a pleasure to welcome the charity’s patron, The Countess of Radnor, and the Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland Fundraising Group Lead, Lucinda Kinnaird, to the garden too, joining Horatio’s Garden Founder & Chair of Trustees, Dr Olivia Chapple, for the joyful occasion. 

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped to bring the charity’s seventh stunning sanctuary to life in time for Christmas! The garden will be a home away from home for patients, their families and friends, and NHS staff spending this winter and the months beyond in hospital. 

Click here to listen to BBC Gardeners’ Corner from 12:10 to hear more about Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland from Head Gardener Matthew Lee and designer Andy Sturgeon

Click the following links to donate and find out more about volunteering in Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland

With 13,000 bulbs in the ground, the garden will be full of hope and colour in spring, whilst the planting will offer a comparable kaleidoscope of seasonal hues in autumn. Summer will be a calming oasis of immersive greens, whilst winter will be home to sculptural branches, seedheads, evergreen hedging and subtle hints of colour and scent. On average, patients with spinal injuries spend between two to six months in hospital, meaning the garden must be as nurturing, inspiring and interactive in the depths of winter as it is in the height of summer.

The 1800m2 garden is fully accessible throughout for people in wheelchairs and beds, ensuring everyone spending time in the Spinal Cord Injuries Unit at Musgrave Park Hospital can physically and mentally benefit from the garden throughout their long stays in hospital. The sanctuary is also open to those staying in the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit. Patients’ families, friends, and NHS staff working in the units can enjoy the garden all year-round.

Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland, carefully designed by Andy Sturgeon in collaboration with patients, their loved ones, NHS staff, and representatives from the charity features:

  • An Iroko wood, timber-clad garden room with accessible kitchen, offering a warm and welcoming place for socialising and workshops run by the charity throughout the year.
  • An accessible Griffin Glasshouse and three custom-made raised beds, where patients, their loved ones and NHS staff can grow their own plants and help to nurture the garden.
  • A beautiful Donegal quartz dry stone wall water feature with three water chutes, handmade by Thea Thompson ceramics.
  • Two Iroko wood, timber-clad garden pods, offering a place for privacy, reflection and shelter.
  • A large timber-clad pergola, creating a green tunnel of scent and colour, alongside eight uniquely handcrafted Torc Pots.
  • A Boccia Court, allowing the fully inclusive and adaptable Paralympic sport to be played in the garden, which doubles as a sociable area with Fermob seating for patients to come together with family and friends, including for events such as summer barbecues. The space is enveloped by Donegal quartz dry stone walling, interspersed with timber fins and custom-made wooden seating.

Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland, offering regular garden therapy sessions and arts workshops, is a vital place for reflection and adjustment for patients and their loved ones facing life-changing spinal injuries from across Northern Ireland. The charity’s research shows that 98% of beneficiaries see and improvement in their wellbeing, with 88% reporting that the gardens have supported their mental and physical rehabilitation.

The project has been in collaboration with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and has been funded entirely by donations, including generous grants from the MITRE Trust Charity and the National Garden Scheme, as well as by members of the public.

Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland has also been the official charity partner of Ulster Rugby since 2022, with the team kindly supporting the ongoing appeal for funds to annually maintain the garden in 2023/24.

The garden has been built by McCusker Contracts Ltd and project managed by Gleeds.

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