Hospital allotments start

Patients could soon be prescribed vegetable growing with the launch of a hospital allotments scheme this week at Vale Community Hospital in Dursley.

The project to turn unused ground at the hospital into raised bed allotments will take another step towards completion with a tree planting and the breaking of ground on Friday.

hospital allotments
Allotments will be created on unused hospital land

People living in the area will be able to apply for a plot through the new Social Prescription initiative, which links patients with non-medical sources of support within the community, and can also be referred by their GPs and other health staff. In addition, people who have suffered heart attacks or angina may be referred to the scheme as part of their rehabilitation and the plots will also be open to those on the waiting list for allotments in Dursley.

The development, which has taken three years to plan, has been inspired by Dr Simon Opher, a GP in the area. It is being supported by Stroud-based Down to Earth, which will organise the initial set-up.

Dr Opher would like to see the scheme extended to other hospitals.

“There are numerous medical and psychological benefits to patients who take on an allotment,” he said. “This scheme is unique as it will take place in the grounds of a hospital and support patients trying out gardening for the first time or after a serious illness has stopped them from doing what was always their passion.

“The physical fitness and healthy eating are part of the benefits, the others lie in growing a sense of community and reducing isolation that illness can bring upon us.”

The 40 raised beds will each measure 16ft by 4ft and the site will have ramps to allow wheelchair access, a storage shed and tea-making facilities. Support will be available for those taking on a plot and there will be workshops on growing food. The area is going to be landscaped with flowers, herbs and a small orchard.

The scheme is awaiting decisions on funding applications for stage two but hopes to have the hospital allotments ready for use by September. Meanwhile, organisers are appealing for volunteers to help with the build and the running of workshops.

Amanda Godber of Down to Earth said: “Linking health, nutritious food and physical activity by developing the unused land at the front of the hospital into a suite of allotments for local community groups and social prescribing is such a valuable project. We hope to work with local community groups and involve the community in the whole project.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or being involved should email:

For more information see Down to Earth

Leckhampton Court gets garden makeover

Part of the garden at Cheltenham’s Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice is being revamped with the help of Chelsea gold medal-winning designer Peter Dowle.

Work begins today on planting a centrepiece flower bed in the courtyard at Leckhampton Court, which will mix trees, shrubs and perennials to provide year-round colour.

Peter Dowle
Peter Dowle on the L’Occitane Garden at Chelsea 2015

Funding for the plants has come from a donation by Cleeve Cloud Golf Club 2015 Charity Tournament and Peter, who owns Howle Hill Nursery near Ruardean, has donated his time and expertise.

“Sue Ryder Homes have always been very close to my heart and it was a fabulous opportunity to share some of the inspiration that plants can bring to such a special place,” he said.

“The Sue Ryder foundation looked after my grandmother with so much dignity and it has been a pleasure to give something back. It has been also very humbling seeing the tremendous work that the team of volunteers bring to the outside space.”

The design has 45 different species, including an olive, Scot’s pine, iris, lavender, ferns and grasses. Providing a link to the hospice’s history, will be pieces of stone from the original 13th century manor house, many of them still showing the marks of the stonemasons who crafted them.

Leckhampton Court
The design features 45 different species

John Millington, Head Gardener at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, said: “We wanted to create something for our patients and visitors to look at and enjoy throughout the year, with colour in every season and the use of grasses creating something to hear too.

“It is fitting that we have been able to incorporate some original stone from the manor house into it which will ensure the new garden has a connection to the hospice building and those who built it.”

Leckhampton Court
Original stone will be used in the new bed

Peter has designed a show garden for next month’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival and will be building the L’Occitane Garden, designed by James Basson, at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Leckhampton Court is the only specialist hospice care inpatient unit in Gloucestershire and has to raise £1.6 million every year to fund its work.

Rare plant fair at Quenington

An open garden event with plants to buy is most gardeners’ idea of a good day out. Add the chance of cake and the knowledge that you are helping a good cause and it becomes even more attractive. Perfection is the possibility of picking up some unusual horticultural treasure so combining a Rare Plant Fair with an open garden has masses of appeal.

The Old Rectory in Quenington is the ideal place for a gathering of horticultural enthusiasts. Not only does it have the space – important when you’re hosting around 20 nurseries – it is also a garden with a long history, not least in charity openings; it notches up 70 years with the National Gardens Scheme this year and opens regularly for other charities, this week for Cobalt.

rare plant fair
The couple commissioned this gate

Bought from the church in the late 1920s, it has been passed down through generations of gardeners and is currently run by Lucy and David Abel Smith, who took over in the early 1980s. They inherited a site with good bones: old yew hedges and some magnificent trees, including copper beech and sycamore. While they have added some features, the layout has remained largely unchanged with the more formal areas nearer the house, gradually moving out into more naturalistic planting.

Not that the formal areas are all clipped topiary and regimented planting. This is a country garden and the atmosphere is relaxed: the main lawn does have a wisteria, rose and clematis-covered pergola but it is bordered on one side by neatly mown lawn and on the other by longer grass, studded with tulips and snake’s head fritillaries.

The rustic pergola is in keeping with the country style

What makes it memorable though is its setting alongside a mill race, a feature that has been exploited to the full with bridges allowing access to an ‘island’ of garden set between the mill race and the River Coln, and sweeps of narcissi and Anemone blanda that enhance views across to the house in one direction and countryside in the other.

Within this framework, Lucy has concentrated on revitalising the planting, helped at first by Esmé Bradburne, one of the founder members of the Soil Association, who in turn trained the current gardener Robert Wyatt; the garden is still run organically.

rare plant fair
The waterside setting is memorable

“I have new ideas constantly,” she says, “just little bits, nothing dramatic.

“I think you have to keep thinking otherwise one’s garden does get very stale.”

Recently, these new ideas have included adding to the spring show by planting lots more bulbs, such as tulips.

“I just felt it need a bit of refreshing. We should have a show of tulips until the end of May.”

Tulips add spring colour

Some of these have gone into the long herbaceous border, others are beginning to colour up at the foot of the yew hedge, mingling with daffodils and muscari.

More drastic was the overhaul of the sunken garden, originally designed by Lucy’s mother-in-law. Here, she has taken out all the planting – “It had got too shrubby” – and replaced it with different varieties of thyme and Allium shubertii.

Nearby, a lily pond, designed to give the still conditions beloved of waterlilies, is a reminder of Lucy’s Scottish childhood home.

Daffodils are naturalised in the grass

Elsewhere, a shady area has been revamped with a winding path and the addition of shrubs, including cornus and cotinus, underplanted by drifts of hardy geraniums.

“I just wanted to make more of this wild bit.”

Every two years Fresh Air, an exhibition of sculpture, is held at The Old Rectory and some of the pieces have found a permanent home there, giving a modern twist to what is otherwise a traditional garden.

Artwork is found throughout the garden

Lanterns made from cupcake cases hang from the branches of a weeping silver lime in front of the house; the stations of the cross are marked out in lettering on stone that forms a trail through the garden, a quote from Goethe is a memorial to Esmé. Even one of the bridges doubles as art: made by Richard La Trobe-Bateman, it splits in the middle.

“It makes it very dramatic,” observes Lucy.

The Rare Plant fair at Quenington will feature 20 independent nurseries specialising in unusual plants. Those attending include Edulis, with a range that includes edibles, Shady Plants, The Cottage Herbery,  Whitehall Farmhouse Plants, with mainly herbaceous perennials, and Tortworth Plants, which is featured here

The Old Rectory, Quenington is open on Sunday April 10, 2016 from 11-4pm. Admission is £5 per adult, which includes entry to the garden. Admission is free for children under 16. Some of the proceeds will be donated to Cobalt.

Swans have made the garden their home

Review Garden Design Bible

Like most gardeners I look back at my first plot and wish I had done it differently. Armed with the knowledge I’ve gained since then, I would have chosen different plants and, above all, a better garden design. Putting things in the wrong place and not making the most of the space you have is a common mistake among new gardeners and one that I fell into.

The newly republished Garden Design Bible could help you avoid such pitfalls. Written by Tim Newbury, a Chelsea gold medallist with his own landscape design business, it offers what he describes as 40 “off the peg designs” to help you get the most out of your garden.

garden design

These designs cover a wide range of styles from those that are plant-driven, such as a scented garden, or one with jungle-like foliage, to others that are determined by situation, including a seaside garden and exposed plot. There are plans suitable for low maintenance, others aimed for family spaces, minimalist, contemporary, cottage and formal.

Each section covers key elements that make it ideal for its purpose: a family garden has, for example, a no-risk water feature. There’s also a planting plan and list of suitable plants. Each garden design can be adapted and a ‘mix and match’ list at the back makes suggestions for alternative routes.

Step-by-step instructions on DIY projects include how to make a post-and-rope screen, construct a formal pond, or build a seat. Lighting, creating privacy, minimising water loss in container-grown plants and what to use for ‘grassless’ lawns are also covered in clear, easy-to-read language.

garden design
The book covers many different styles of garden

Unlike many design books, this is not packed with glossy photographs and designed for a spot on the coffee table. There are lots of pictures but they are used mainly to show individual features within a design or suggested plants. The main design is depicted instead by a watercolour illustration to give an idea of how the 2D planting plan would look if carried out.

In the same vein, it’s not full of cultivation advice – look elsewhere for how to prune roses or when to sow annuals – and there’s little on soil type or the size of plants. However, as a source of ideas from corner beds to trees for pots, it’s ideal and will certainly help newcomers avoid those design traps.

Garden Design Bible by Tim Newbury is published by Hamlyn priced at £16.99.

Review copy from The Suffolk Anthology

For more book reviews, see here