Horticulture Week Podcast: harnessing the therapeutic potential of gardens with Horatio's Gardens' Dr Olivia Chapple

Olivia Chapple and Matthew Appleby

Horatio’s Garden is a national charity creating and nurturing beautiful gardens in NHS spinal injury centres.

Leading landscape designers such as Cleve West, Tom Stuart-Smith, Bunny Guinness and Sarah Price are among those who have lent their talents to design the gardens.

The charity is named after Horatio Chapple, a volunteer who had the original idea of creating a garden away from the wards for patients and their families. As a schoolboy, he wanted to be a doctor and he volunteered at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury during his school holidays. 

Horatio noticed that there was a lack of outdoor space for patients with spinal injuries and their loved ones and he came up with the idea of creating a garden. Backed by parents, Dr Olivia Chapple and David Chapple (a spinal surgeon at Salisbury District Hospital) Horatio consulted with patients on what they thought the garden should be like. 

But tragically, Horatio’s life was cut short at 17 when his camp was attacked by a polar bear whilst on an expedition to Svalbard that summer. But donations flooded in for his garden to be created and since then, Horatio’s legacy has continued to grow and is now helping patients, families and NHS staff throughout the UK.

In each project the charity funds a head gardener - including current rising star Ashley Edwards at the London garden.

The recent lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic only served to reinforce the gardens' value, Dr Chapple explains:

"Our head gardeners team were all deemed to be essential workers by the NHS and we've kept the projects going throughout the whole of the pandemic.

"It's really affirmed to us the vitalness of having access to gardens in hospitals.

"At the height of lockdown, patients were unable to see their friends and family and were confined to the ward, apart from in those spinal centres where they had a Horatio's Garden...so it became an absolutely vital resource."

The charity also has gardens in Salisbury, Glasgow, Stoke Mandeville and Oswestry, is building a sixth in Cardiff and developing a seventh garden in Northern Ireland. The aim is to bring Horatio’s Garden to all the 11 spinal injury centres in the UK.

In the podcast, Dr Chapple discusses these plans and the fundraising needed to get them off the ground with events planned for RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Society of Garden Designers' Awards where the charity will host a vegan table in honour of Horatio's garden designer Cleve West.

The charity is also featuring in a programme hosted by Alan Titchmarsh as part of the BBC Lifeline appeal airing on the last day of Chelsea Flower Show and available on BBC iPlayer. See BBC Lifeline Appeal 2:05pm on Sunday 26th September: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00104dy

Podcast presenter: HW editor Matthew Appleby
Producer: HW digital content manager, Christina Taylor

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If you are interested in producing a podcast with Horticulture Week, contact matthew.appleby@haymarket.com. 

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