Many of you will have been out in your gardens appreciating the fine summer weather this past month, as have plenty of patients, newly reunited families and NHS staff in each Horatio’s Garden across the country. Amidst all the present uncertainty, nature has remained a welcome constant throughout the past few months, helping to remind us that despite the challenges we face, new beginnings are never far away.
News from Horatio’s Garden South West, Salisbury
Head Gardener Stephen has continued to tend to the garden daily, often encountering people who are full of kind words about the garden and the difference it is making to their time in hospital. The summer borders have been blooming in a spectacular fashion and lots of patients have been appreciating them slowly and quietly, allowing the sights and sounds to work their gentle magic.
One particular patient, Adam, has been a frequent visitor to the garden throughout his stay in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre and recently shared his observations with Stephen on one of his morning visits to the garden. He commented:
“The garden is a sheer delight. Paths are curved, concealing blocks of wild, architectural planting – globoid alliums, sweet fennel, sweet scabious, Lindheimer’s beeblossom. A running water feature borders a tall, arboured tunnel of entrained apple brances fecund with pendulous fruit. There are places to sit, an audaciously close blackbird waiting for a hand-me-out, a greenhouse, a mysterious giant wooden gate sunken into beech foiliage and a herb garden with examples of pineapple sage and pineapple mint. I guess that’s the closest we get to pineapple growing in this country!”
Although we sadly haven’t been able to welcome our volunteers back to the garden yet, we have had the privilege of seeing patients reuniting with their loved ones amongst the planting for the first time since lockdown began in March.
Naturally, the visits have had an enormously positive impact on everyone, including the spinal centre’s staff, who we’re thrilled to see so many smiles both during and after visiting hours. There’s certainly been a warm and uplifting atmosphere permeating the garden since the familiar faces of patients’ families and friends arrived and it’s wonderful that everyone has been able to spend such precious time together in Horatio’s Garden.
News from Horatio’s Garden Scotland, Glasgow
The fair weather has brought eager patients, Occupational Therapists and physiotherapists out into our Scotland garden, with many gathering around the hand therapy table for various sessions led by Head Gardener & Horticultural Therapist Sallie. The group’s lively conversations have covered all manner of greenfingered topics, including which plants people could take inside to be nurtured on windowsills and which seeds everyone could sow next.
The garden has been a haven for everyone currently at the Scottish National Spinal Injuries Unit, with the annual strawberry and raspberry harvest bringing joy to patients and staff alike. Everyone has been picking and sharing the fruit, with some even adding cream and sprinkles to really make the most of the delicious summery treat. It was a new dessert for many, but one that was definitely appreciated by all!
We said a bittersweet goodbye to WRAGS trainee, Chelsea Lowe, who has now completed her year-long internship with us. Her enthusiasm and ability to put a smile on everyone’s face will be greatly missed and we are so grateful for all that she did throughout her time in Horatio’s Garden.
With Chelsea gone, the support of our fantastic volunteer team has meant more than ever and it’s been brilliant to see a few more purple polo shirts in the garden. Those who have been able to return have already made an enormous difference, helping Sallie to take care of the garden and spending time with patients who have only just begun to be able to see their families again.
It’s been both moving and magical to see people coming together in the garden for the first time in 15 weeks, particularly as so many travelled vast distances across the country in order to spend a short while visiting their loved one in hospital. Over the years, lots of people have told us how much Horatio’s Garden means to them and now their kind words are taking on newfound significance.
News from Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville
We’ve seen lots of passionate gardeners making the most of our Stoke Mandeville sanctuary throughout the past month, with some new arrivals and some familiar faces joining Head Gardener Jacqui in the fresh air.
Amongst those discovering the garden for the first time was Gareth, who quickly embraced the opportunity to take part in the charity’s horticultural therapy sessions. He has been watching and learning as much as possible in an effort to improve his gardening skills, with one of his first activities involving potting on seedlings under the watchful eye of volunteer Julie! He often spends many an hour sketching the various plants in the garden, capturing their beauty in exquisite detail.
Meanwhile, many previously discharged patients have now returned to the National Spinal Injuries Centre in order to continue and finish their rehabilitation, which was previously interrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19. Those who know the garden well have wasted no time in getting back to nature and Keith was especially pleased to see his tomato plants thriving in the greenhouse.
Having sown the seeds back in March, prior to being sent home for a time, Keith almost immediately began to tend to his standard and trailing tomato plants when he came back to the centre a month ago. They’ve been so successful that he generously gave a few away to be sold as part of our Grow to Give fundraising event, but he made sure to hold onto a few so that he could plant them in his hanging baskets, which will be going home with him soon.
Throughout the warm, bright days the garden has continued to be well-used by NHS staff with patients too, as they have continued to hold rehabilitation sessions outside. Lots of patients have shared that they appreciate being able to spend so much time in the garden and the arrival of gifts from Bolt Burdon Kemp was simply an additional incentive to head out into the sunshine. Little things mean a great deal to all of us at the moment and we are so grateful to Bolt Burdon Kemp for their thoughtful, unwavering support.
News from Horatio’s Garden Midlands, Oswestry
Our garden at the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries is always full of quiet conversation and laughter, but over recent weeks it has been cherished by patients and families together for the first time in four months.
The happiness of patients, their loved ones and MCSI staff could be tangibly felt in the garden, with many uplifting, emotional stories coming to light as result of people’s visits.
One such story came from Lynda, who was recently visited by her own budding young gardener grandson, Sam. As a keen gardener herself, Lynda has spent as much time as possible outside during her stay, often chatting to Head Gardener Imogen about the plants growing around them. Her injuries mean that she now has limited hand and arm function, but with Imogen’s support she has sown a tray of seeds, planted her own hanging basket and tended the plants flourishing in the raised beds. She’s found joy in watching the garden throughout the ever-changing seasons and has loved simply feeling soil in her fingers, something that any gardener can relate to.
Patients have grown closer than ever over the past few months and Lynda has been a friend to everyone, including the charity. She’s willingly gone above and beyond to contribute however she can, even penning a song and poem for Horatio’s Garden, which she read as part of the garden’s midsummer celebrations.
As a way of keeping Horatio’s Garden with her, Lynda will be taking home her seedlings when she leaves the spinal unit soon, which have now been made that little bit more special as they were potted on by her grandson when he came to visit.
Imogen has continued to work with lots of patients in her horticultural therapy sessions, whilst her Mindfulness in Nature workshop was also found to be a great comfort to many. Run in collaboration with physiotherapists as part of the centre’s ‘Coping with Spinal Injury in Practice’ programme, both patients and staff appreciated being able to calmly enjoy the intricacies of the garden. One woman shared that it was the best relaxation session she’d ever had, whilst another patient was later found in the garden telling his girlfriend all about the session over the phone.
Since the garden opened, staff have consistently incorporated the garden into their clinical care and can often be found under blue skies either alone or with patients. They’ve recently held another Sports Day in the sunshine and have now also begun to take little pieces of Horatio’s Garden home with them, regularly popping out to see what’s growing and buying plants to brighten up their own gardens.
News from Horatio’s Garden London & South East, London
Our fifth project is rapidly progressing, with the pods and garden room now really resembling architect Stephen Marshall’s naturalistic designs. The team from ARJ have continued to work tirelessly to bring the garden to life, which will now be opening in just a few short weeks.
Excitingly, we have now also welcomed a new Head Gardener to the team, Ashley Edwards, who will be responsible for taking care of this beautiful place and those seeking solace within it. Prior to starting his new role at our latest project, Ashley wasted no time in immersing himself in the world of Horatio’s Garden, working in both our sanctuaries at Salisbury and Stoke Mandeville. Now that the hard landscaping is largely finished, Ashley and our fantastic new volunteer team have begun planting the garden with the support of the team from Crocus, where the plants have been supplied from, whilst Tom Stuart-Smith and his team have also been on-hand to help put the final touches to the garden.
We’re really looking forward to seeing Horatio’s Garden London & South East flourish in the coming days, and this unique place will soon be offering beauty, calm and comfort to everyone affected by spinal injury at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre.
It is thanks to your continued support that we’ve been able to share all these stories with you. Your donations enable Horatio’s Garden to make a difference across the UK every single day, so please keep giving whatever you can by clicking the ‘Donate’ button at the top of this page.