The Hospice of St Francis is opening up its glorious gardens to garden lovers for the first time this year, as part of the National Gardens Scheme Open Gardens programme.
Originally built on a brown field site in 2006, the hospice gardens have been lovingly planned, planted and nurtured by a dedicated team of 35 volunteer gardeners to provide a tranquil and therapeutic environment for hospice patients, their families and friends.
The site covers seven acres, with views over to the National Trust Ashridge Estate, and is split into six areas around the concept of a traditional farmhouse with outbuildings.
The gardens include wild flower meadows, orchards and a herb garden filled with chives, rosemary, violets and parsley used by the hospice kitchen. In addition, there is a sensory garden, with strong colours, scents and sounds, together with raised flower beds built especially to accommodate wheelchair access.
The Healing Garden
Behind the hospice, the Healing Garden has an oriental theme, combining eastern plants and a stunning water feature, designed by Chelsea Flower show Gold Medallist, David Stevens. During the Open Gardens event, there will also be access to the patients’ gardens, which have beds planted twice a year to give lots of colour and attract insect life.
The Woodland Trail will also be open. The trail includes elements of surprise for children, culminating in a visit to the Storytellers’ Chair, hidden in a clearing in the woods. Generously donated by Robyn West, in memory of her late husband Ian, the chair is used to share stories by children and adults facing loss as well as visiting school groups.
The hospice will be serving cream teas during the afternoon, with proceeds going to the National Garden Scheme’s charities, of which Help the Hospices is a member and has received more than £3 million since 1996.
‘Heal the anguish’
Hospice Director, Dr Ros Taylor, comments: “We receive so many comments from patients, families and visitors about our beautiful gardens and we felt that after eight years of hard graft by our gardening volunteers, we’d love to showcase them to garden lovers from across the region.
“It is a privilege to be one of just three hospice gardens open this year by NGS and I’m delighted that Help the Hospices will be one of the beneficiaries of the entrance fees. Our share will help us to secure the £4.7million we need to raise each and every year to provide care for over 1,000 patients and their families across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
“I hope many people will come and visit us on the 7 September to spend an hour or two in this magical setting and that it will alter people’s opinions about hospices. We are a bright, colourful, happy place and our gardens radiate this warmth and happiness, lifting the spirits of everyone who visits.
“It is often said that the garden is a therapeutic space to heal the anguish that people face during the uncertainty of illness – I’ve seen this in action every day!”
You can find out more about the Hospice of St Francis Open Garden event taking place on Sunday 7 September, and also the Open Garden events taking place across the country this weekend, by visiting the NGS website.