Passion, purpose and pride
By Communications Manager, Vicky Flynn
Each year the small head office team from the National Garden Scheme sets out on a series of Regional Meetings bringing together County Organisers and their teams to share the fundraising results of the year just gone and to discuss the year ahead. The Midlands meeting, bringing together nine counties, is hosted by one of the Scheme’s main beneficiary charities at the Marie Curie Hospice, Solihull.
“It’s an important year ahead,” said National Garden Scheme Chairman Martin McMillan as he opened proceedings. “Along with our record breaking donation to charity in 2020 we’ll be celebrating a milestone of £10 million donated to Marie Curie since our partnership began.”
An important year indeed for our partnership with Marie Curie and the reason why, on this occasion, I slipped out of the morning session to meet with the garden volunteers at the hospice.
Amy McNaughton-Brown, Fundraising Engagement Lead at the hospice guided me out of the main building into a neat courtyard of plants and private seating areas, the winter sunshine doing its best to break through the scudding clouds.
“We have a small army of garden volunteers,” Amy explained as we took a narrow path around the side of the building. Turning the corner flanked by beech hedges rustling in the wind, the little path opened onto a wonderfully spacious garden; there are wide paths and wire arches that promise clematis, roses and honeysuckle later in the year, bird feeders, and planters colourful with spring bulbs and a central, calming, gently bubbling water feature. “All 21 of the hospice rooms open onto this garden and in the warmer weather the beds can be wheeled out so that patients can really enjoy it.”
It’s not what I expected. Orderly, calm and, even in February, the thoughtful layout is punctuated with colour and interest. We kept walking. The path sloped gently away from the building toward a wilder area, there’s a pond, bug hotels and a Fairy Garden for bereaved children to spend time and leave their hopes and wishes. A new wishing well had just been added, a gift from one of the garden volunteers.
“The children love it, it’s hard to get them to leave,” added Amy.
So far, there’d been little sign of the volunteers that I’d come to meet but in the furthest corner of the garden among the poly tunnels and potting sheds we could hear a hubbub of voices, the ring of laughter. It was break time and 18 gardeners, men and women, young and old, some in Marie Curie sunshine yellow, all dressed against the cold, were cradling hot cups of tea and coffee, sharing cakes and chatting. Their welcome was warm and their eagerness to share stories of what they do and the garden they tend was infectious.
“We grow everything ourselves, from seed or by propagation,” explained Jan.
“Often we’ll find trays of donated plants left at the door to the hospice, along with donated pots,” added Sue as she tended plants in the poly tunnel that the volunteers had funded and built themselves.
Currently preparing for a spring sale, Gweno was cleaning off the baskets of hyacinths and pots of bulbs. “The garden is completely self-funded mainly from our plant sales,” she explained. “Things are all a bit early for our planned Mothers’ Day sale but we should do well with spring bulbs.”
Chatting with the volunteers there are a mix of motivators that make them turn up come rain or shine. One who recently retired was keen not only to keep busy but to be part of a community, another who lives alone enjoys the human interaction, a young girl, Louise, whose mother was cared for at the hospice and passed away there, wanted to give something back. Overwhelmingly it seemed that an enjoyment of being outdoors coupled with the physical exercise, doing something positive and the company of others binds this busy group together.
With morning break over the garden volunteers dispersed, some to the potting sheds and poly tunnel, others to fill wheelbarrows with compost or to plant, weed and tidy or to fill the bird feeders. And, as I rejoined the Regional Meeting inside the hospice and sat among our own fifty-strong gathering of volunteers (the teams that support the garden owners whose gardens raise the money for our nursing and health beneficiaries) I felt a great sense of pride not only in the amount of money the National Garden Scheme donates each year but also in the people who make it possible – all the volunteers who support the Scheme and our beneficiary charities. It’s no exaggeration to say that we really could not do what we do without them.
Every day it costs £11,313 to run the hospice at Solihull.
The garden at the Marie Curie Hospice, Solihull opens for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday 5th July – for more details see: https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/34218/
You can explore a selection of daffodil gardens coming into flower that open for the National Garden Scheme and help support our charities here https://ngs.org.uk/daffodil-gardens/
There are a number of other hospices gardens that open during the year – you can find them here
If you are interested in volunteering for the National Garden Scheme – you can discover more by clicking here