Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the press preview of Horatio's Garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury. It looks very different to my last visit at the end of May*, when just the outline of the garden's structure was in evidence.
I'm pleased to report the press weren't the first people previewing the garden. The patients had the first 'taste' of their garden the day before, which is just as it should be.
|The speech makers - Cleve West, Olivia Chapple and Annie Maw|
For once I'm turning my back on the spinal unit and at last I'm seeing the possibilities of the outside world.
When Annie was a patient at the unit, it was months before she went outside. When at last she did, it was hearing a skylark in the distance, which she says was the turning point in her recovery. Birds and insects have already found the garden to their liking.
The garden won't just be a garden. It'll also be a space for art, theatre, music and community projects. Olivia Chapple outlined the partnerships already being formed with local schools and the wider community in Salisbury. It's another aspect of looking to the outside world to bring new experiences and possibilities to patients and Salisbury alike.
Cleve spoke about how he'd been taken around in a wheelchair to understand a little of the needs of his clients. As a consequence a slight slope to the site was removed (OK for more experienced patients, but too much of a challenge for those just starting to get used to their new life) and the installation of a special resin bound surface. Patients have already given the smoothness of the latter a big thumbs up.
This is the 'driving engine' of the garden where patients will sow seeds, pot them on and get growing. They will be growing some of their own food, which they will then take inside to their adapted kitchen to get cooking. The planters you see are on wheels, so they can be moved around according to how the patients are using the space.
Having seen the garden in May, this was the most surprising part of the transformation as it takes what then looked like the most unpromising part of the space and makes it the heart of the patients' activities. There are also places here and throughout the garden where large umbrellas can be put up to provide extra shelter when needed.
Here are just a few of the many people who've worked extremely hard to make Horatio's Garden happen: Horatio's mother, gardeners, designers, volunteers, SSIT trustees etc. There's still work to do - 2,000 bulbs will be planted next month; the native hedge will be planted to screen out the car park and link the garden with the distant landscape; and the arch will get its covering of apple trees, carefully selected to include Horatio's favourites and to provide a long season of both blossom and apples.
Dorothy (the lady in the middle wheelchair, who was a patient at the hospital 2 years ago) will be working out how far into the borders she can get to plant bulbs with her long bulb planter. This shows how the garden will evolve over time to match patient's capabilities and needs.
I'll leave you with a final collage of some of my other pictures from the day...
Frank Gardner performing the ceremonial duties and around 400 people expected to attend. You'll also be able to read what The Sunday Telegraph makes of it. I think it's one of the most important gardens of recent times and I hope it inspires the creation of many more hospital gardens in the years to come.
As I left to come home, I noticed a woman sitting on one of the benches talking to a young man in a wheelchair. The garden was safely back with its owners :)
* = do have a look at my link from my last visit - it provides a lot of background to the story of how Horatio's Garden came into being as well as showing the hardscaping work in progress.