I have lived in London my entire life and highly value the act of gardening as well as being surrounded by -and connected to -nature, plants and quality greenspace. I say quality because an area of grass to let the local dogs…. ‘exercise’….is not not reaching its full potential. I have designed and built umpteen gardens and am involved with community gardens, but my most recent design is also the most important to date. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. The Horatios garden I designed at Stoke Mandeville opened in September 2018 and is only going to get better as it matures. We have a fabulous head gardener Jacqui in place along with a team of willing and knowledgeable volunteers. The garden build was not cheap, we didn’t skimp, but it is a gift from the charity through incredible fundraising efforts, to the NHS as is its ongoing care.
Spinal injury patients previously spent extremely long periods stuck inside but now have somewhere to gather and spend extremely important times with family and friends away from the understandably sterile environment of the hospital. Plants and gardens aid recovery and are good for one’s soul; especially important during difficult times.
The garden is all one one level, it has private and more communal areas, an incredible garden building designed by Andrew Wells of 3W architecture complete with kitchen to shelter from the weather. It’s great for doing projects and therapies in. There’s a pond with moving water which adds another dimension and makes the garden feel cool and tranquil on a hot day. There’s even subtle garden lighting which means it can be used in the evenings and viewed from inside the wards when its dark.
The design has transformed what was an uninviting, impractical, exposed (to passers- by) and extremely underused space into an accessible, exciting well used garden packed full of plants for all seasons. Trees such as limes, winter flowering cherries, gingko and amelanchiers provide shade in summer as well as autumn and winter interest. Shrubs such as lonicera, sarcococca and climbing jasmines pump out sweet fragrance and in summer riotous perennials and grasses knit together to envelope the seating areas with plants, creating privacy and bringing in the butterflies and bees. As a garden designer there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a garden you’ve designed being used and enjoyed by those you’ve made it for and when those people and their families have been through life changing trauma, seeing the positive effects on their day to day life it makes it even more special.