Horatio’s Garden nurtures the wellbeing of people after spinal injury in beautiful, vibrant sanctuaries within the heart of NHS spinal injury centres. Leading designers create the accessible gardens where the charity’s team, alongside volunteers and creatives, care for people and plants alike.

Spinal cord injuries are traumatic events. The gardens are vital places for reflection and adjustment for people facing these life-changing injuries and long stays in hospital. The profoundly positive impact of a Horatio’s Garden is clear for patients, their loved ones and hospital staff. Research shows that 94% of beneficiaries see an improvement in their wellbeing with 91% reporting that the gardens have supported their mental health.

The charity’s vision is to sustainably grow thriving communities and biodiverse gardens in all 11 NHS spinal injury centres in the UK. To date we have opened seven gardens in the South West, Scotland, Stoke Mandeville, Midlands, London & South East, Wales and Northern Ireland, with work beginning our eighth in Sheffield in spring 2024.

Exceptional Gardens

The charity’s projects are all designed by different acclaimed landscape designers who create the outstanding gardens following detailed consultation with all stakeholders and are situated immediately adjacent to the spinal injury centres.

The calm, inspiring places showcase the best of contemporary planting design using carefully-chosen trees and plants to be enjoyed from different vantages and through all seasons. Smooth paths enable safe movement around the garden for patients in hospital beds and wheelchairs.

The designers collaborate with prominent architects to create bright interior spaces with for all-year-round appreciation of the gardens whatever the weather.

Every Horatio’s Garden has a team led by a Head Gardener, supported by a garden administrator and a dedicated team of volunteers who work together to nurture the gardens, with regular advisory visits from the garden designers.

“This is what healing gardens should be like”

– Society of Garden Designers

Immersion in Nature

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Garden therapy

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Arts programme

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Families and Friends

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Patient, relatives and staff all use the gardens to enjoy the immersive benefits of nature. The sounds, smells and sights of the natural environment are a direct contrast to the wards.

The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves. It carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body to enable us move, feel and control vital functions like breathing, blood pressure and bladder and bowel activity. When the spinal cord is damaged, this communication is disrupted, resulting in a loss of movement and sensation from below the level of injury. In addition, there may be loss of voluntary control over bladder, bowel and sexual function.

Damage to the spinal cord can be caused by a trauma from an accident, or as a result of infection, a medical condition or disease and can affect anyone at any age.

Alongside the physical impact of a spinal cord injury, there are also immense emotional and psychological effects on the patient and their loved ones. SCI has devastating consequences for both their lifestyle (Duggan and Dijkers, 2001; Post and Leeuwn, 2012) and physical health (Krause et al, 2019).

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People with spinal cord injuries are 56% more likely than the general population (Migliorini et al, 2008) to experience mental health issues and can have a four- to five-fold increased risk of suicide (De Vivo et al, 1991). Evidence shows that increasing patients’ sense of control after their SCI reduces depression for up to two years after leaving hospital.

Social support has also been shown to improve physical and mental health of people with SCI. Having communal and peer-led support networks improves psychological outcomes (Kely 2016).

Horatio’s Garden aims to use the evidence base to improve all aspects of physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing for patients with SCI and their friends and family.

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