If you have ever been hospitalised over an extended period of rehabilitation, you will remember that feeling of being cooped up indoors with only an, often unpleasant, urban view from a window to look on to. Not so in Horatio’s Garden Scotland sited in the Scottish National Spinal Injuries Unit at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow where the beautiful garden is a veritable oasis of planting magic, fully accessible for both wheelchairs and hospital beds.
Horatio’s Garden is a charity which creates and cares for these stunning sanctuary gardens in NHS spinal injury centres and there are currently three Horatio’s Gardens in the UK, with two more under development. The growing body of research which recognises the improved health and well-being benefits of gardens, need look no further than Horatio’s Gardens to see the positive effective on patient rehabilitation which access to such a natural space brings.
In addition to being able to be in the garden to read, to chat, to have a cup of tea with a visitor or to feel the sun on your face during spinal rehabilitation, patients can take part in regular horticultural therapy sessions. These sessions lead patients through purposeful, gardening activities to engage them in all aspects of plant cultivation from sowing seed to harvesting crops; from taking cuttings to cutting flowers for indoor displays. Patients can learn new gardening skills at their own pace, with activities designed to be accessible through the use of raised beds, whilst maximising social, cognitive and physical functions as well as enhancing general health and well-being.
Horatio’s Garden Scotland was designed by award-winning garden designer and Chelsea Flower Show judge, James Alexander-Sinclair and opened in September 2016. It is maintained by patients and willing volunteers under the guiding hand of Head Gardener Sallie Sillars. The main garden features a woodland walkway which is overlooked by the wards. This area is bursting with Verbena Bonariensis, Salvia Amistad and Persicaria Amplexicaulis Fat Domino at this time of year. Wildlife is encouraged to the garden through both the planting and the bird feeders located outside every window and it gives patients something green and vibrant to look out on even when they are unable to get outside.
There is a greenhouse area in Horatio’s Garden Scotland so all sorts of plants and edibles can be cultivated and raised beds of strawberries, salads and herbs on wheels can be moved to suit accessibility levels of patients.
Touchingly, there is a children’s play area right in the heart of Horatio’s Garden Scotland so patients with young families who are hospitalised for an extended period of time, are still able to access the outdoors to watch their children play and plant vegetables. This, together with the physiotherapy garden, where patients are learning to use wheelchairs or crutches, are reminders that the garden is providing so much more than simply a nice view or smell: it is supporting the well-being of the whole patient and their families.
The courtyard area which is right at the heart of the unit enjoys a totally different atmosphere from the rest of the garden. Enclosed on all sides, accessible to all, it has benches to rest on, running water to soothe, enclosed outdoor pods to sit or read in so patients can still be outside in all weathers and a fully accessible, outdoor kitchen for making a cuppa for visitors. The planting which includes Anenome Ruffled Swan, Hosta Purple Heart, Echinacea Hot Summer and Geranium Azure Rush frame the courtyard, giving it a healing ambience – it is a truly remarkable space.
If you would like to get involved in supporting Horatio’s Garden Scotland, you are welcome to visit the garden by simply emailing Sallie Sillars, the remarkable Head Gardener, to join a tour of the space – the garden will not disappoint and the visits always end with a cup of tea and a slice of something nice made by a willing band of volunteers!
Horatio’s Gardens across the UK are always on the lookout for volunteers to help with the upkeep of the garden, provide therapeutic and creative activities, entertain with music or laughter, help with fundraising, spend time with patients or make the tea for those touring the garden. If you cannot do any of that, then you could also browse the online shop for a few gardening Christmas or special occasion gifts.
Horatio’s Gardens describe themselves as “planting hope for people living with paralysis” and they do this and yet, they are so much more. Horatio’s Garden Scotland is a showcase of the way we should be managing patient care in hospitals. By making a beautiful and vibrant garden space available to patients both through the window from hospital beds, and by allowing both beds and wheelchairs to fully access the outdoor space, Horatio’s Garden recognises and promotes the health and well-being benefits of greenspace in patient rehabilitation and blazes the trail all healthcare settings should be adopting.