Herry’s story: gardening is therapy

Herry; garden owner of Old Swan House

Herry – who opens his garden for the National Garden Scheme – was first diagnosed with cancer in 2015, when he found solace in the reassurance given by his “friendly and knowledgeable” Macmillan Nurse. We interviewed him a few years ago for Gardens and Health, when he told us he is “definitely a believer in the benefits of gardening for anyone, whether they suffer from cancer or not”.

Herry received another cancer diagnosis at the start of last year, but is making a very good recovery with gardening still central to his wellbeing. This is his story…

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2020 and operated on in Winchester Hospital almost immediately, and a large tumour was removed. I spent 10 days in hospital and then recovered at home with a full-time nurse and have been feeling well ever since, despite there being some residual cancer in a couple of lymph nodes.

I began gardening again during lockdown in that glorious spring weather last year and it lifted my spirits and kept me positive and cheerful throughout. I wasn’t able to do quite as much as before, but there is much joy in simply going quietly round the garden in spring and early summer with one’s secateurs in hand, while leaving the heavier work to others – who are of course very grateful for it. You will remember how quiet and peaceful it was during that first lockdown, and I loved every moment of being outside and feeling the garden burgeoning around me.

Although I normally open the garden with the Stockbridge Group in June each year, in 2020 the logistics proved too difficult under the restrictions then in place and we cancelled our opening. I did however manage to open my garden alone twice in July, but had to cancel a National Garden Scheme garden party for 30 when the Rule of Six was introduced, so I wasn’t very successful in raising funds. This year should be better as I am just negotiating to move the Stockbridge Gardens Group opening by a week to escape the restrictions and open ‘normally’ in June, and will also open the garden on my own on four occasions in July and have the National Garden Scheme garden tea party, probably in September.

So, gardening gives me something to look forward to every day and the amount of time I spend outside does, I’m sure, keep my Vitamin D and immune system well topped up! It’s a constant source of interest and joy as well as the best possible way to maintain my health.

Old Swan House, Hampshire

Old Swan House, Stockbridge, Hampshire
Herry’s town garden is designed around seven areas defined by the sun at different times of the day. Planting is modern perennial with euphorbias, rosemary and box used extensively. Particular interest is provided by a grass and gravel garden and a small wildflower meadow. There is an ancient hazel under a brick and flint wall, a loggia hung with creeper, an orchard and a pond.
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