So what is a Hospice Memory Garden?
The term may cover a number of types of gardens and borders where flowers, shrubs, trees and even statues are placed so that the bereaved can come and remember their loved ones.
It is, or should be a place of reflection as well as sadness; somewhere to be reminded of the good times.
However, in a hospice setting, there are also residents, patients and staff who also need a quiet place to relax. It can offer a place to sit and to reminisce with friends and family perhaps.
St Christopher’s Hospice offers care and support for the residents of the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. They have a site in both Orpington and Sydenham.
Back in October 2015, we met with Christine and Philippa from St Christopher’s Hospice at the Sydenham hospice grounds. Marie, as Plews Garden Design, was asked to design and create a Memory Garden in the grounds at Sydenham. Designed as a year round garden, to be enjoyed by the residents, staff and carers, we decided that the area next to the Pavilion would be the best place.
It was agreed that the Memory Garden would have the names of loved ones planted along with the flowers and shrubs. The date for completion was that the garden should be ready for an ‘official opening’ at the St Christopher’s Mad Hatters Fair on June 25th.
Initial thoughts and ideas followed on from the site survey, carried out by both Marie, and Nathan, from Plews Garden Landscaping. We knew the whole border would need to be cleared of the old, tired shrubs; the soil dug over and improved.
The hospice memory garden design included a change of shape and extension to the existing border so that scented flowers could be planted near the doors of the pavilion. Scent and a changing outlook over the year were important design elements.
St Christopher’s had already received donations for the hospice Memory Garden. Gardens, and even large borders such as this one, take more money, time and effort than many people realise. Whilst Plews Garden Design and Plews Garden Landscaping were both giving their time, we were aware that there were exciting things like soil improver needed as well as plants. So Marie spent much time contacting local nurseries and other gardening related people she knows to see what else might be donated or offered at a discount.
A twitter plea led by Wow Bromley gave a boost to funds from some local businesses and individuals.
Hospice Memory Garden – preparation
As ever with garden design and landscaping and with border planting designs there comes a point when the secateurs and loppers come out and work on the ground starts.
Some of the Plews Garden Design and Plews Garden Landscaping teams who were available plus a couple of willing and able volunteers got together on a Sunday to clear all the old shrubs and plants.
We cleared the ground, putting into a ‘holding bed’ those plants which could be used either within the new design or elsewhere within the hospice grounds.
Once the border was cleared of plants and weeds, the digging started. Unfortunately, we hit type 1 (literally!) about six inches down over nearly half of the area of original flower and shrub border. Type 1 is the mix of stones that is put down as a hard landscaping surface under patios for example.
This was obviously the opportune moment for a break. We scoffed delicious chocolate and raspberry cupcakes provided by yet another supporter and considered the type 1 problem… along with the football, flat and house buying and who had the cutest dog / cat/ kitten photo. (The kitten won).
Ideally we would have brought in a breaker to get rid of all the type 1 and replace with new top soil. Time and money constraints led us to decide to use Nathan and a mattock instead. He loosened it to improve the drainage and we planned to bring along some fresh soil when planting. Marie decided that re-designing the border was possible, so we would be abel to resolve the problem at minimum cost to the charity.
The soil improver was wheel barrowed from the Plews truck and dug into the extended area and the border. When adding soil improver, it’s important to remember that it is food for plants so needs to be at their root level, not left on the soil surface.
After all that hard work, we cleaned up the site and all departed to our various homes for a late lunch and a rest.
For the next instalment of the Hospice Memory Garden – the planting – you’ll need to wait until we’ve done it – but keep an eye open on social media and you might spot us in action!