"The garden is a release for patients and families when they're in distress"

Our Marie Curie Hospices aren’t places where people come to die – they’re places people living with a terminal illness and their families can go to spend their final days in as much happiness and comfort as their situation allows.

For Hospice Care Week we spoke to Barbara Barker and Clare Davis, volunteer gardeners at our West Midlands hospice to see the difference the gardens of our hospices make.

Barbara and Clare are part of a dedicated team of green-fingered volunteers

“Barbara and I have volunteered at the hospice for 20 years and we've developed a passion for coming here. I think gardens are therapeutic.” Clare says. “A patient or relative sometimes just wants to say hello to us – they’re maybe having a difficult time and want to talk about gardening, something different, away from their problems.”

Our scarecrow got a name

Barbara and Clare often do that little bit extra for people at the hospice. “I made a lady scarecrow dressed in a Marie Curie sweatshirt and wellies.” Clare tells us. “When we were carrying it up from the greenhouse to the vegetable garden, a lady came out of one of the bedrooms and said “You must show my mum!”. So we carried it into the bedroom to show her and asked her to think of a name. She named it Miss Sunshine and it made her smile even though she was very poorly. It was one of the many special moments gardening at the hospice.”

Welcoming a not-so-feathered guest to the seaside garden

“We made a seaside garden. It's been great fun because every time we go past we find something added – a shell or something else from the seaside from patients and visitors. Someone made a bird's nest for the seagulls. It's really fun. It's lovely that at a time when families and patients are in distress, the garden is a bit of a release for them. They feel part of the place and like they can contribute.

“We even had a card delivered to our garden shed from the relatives of a patient who passed away. The family really appreciated how much their loved one had enjoyed looking through the window at the garden. They wanted to thank us. We don't do it for that but it was very rewarding.”

And you can buy items made from the garden

And it doesn’t cost the hospice money to keep the garden looking so stunning. Barbara says “We’re self-sufficient – we sell plants in order to fund what we need for the gardening. We've made Christmas door decorations for many years and now we do other things like table and flowerpot decorations. They're made from materials from the garden. We had a big team making decorations this year to sell and raise money for the garden, to do a lot of new planting.

A small portion of the hospice gardens, where patients and families can relax and enjoy a moment of tranquility.

“We grow rosemary plants in the hospice garden so when people come to a thanks-giving service they take can a rosemary plant home. It's a remembrance plant.”

“Patients and visitors come out into the garden and I think it really helps them.” Barbara tells us. “It's particularly beautiful in the summer – and it's only going to get better. We love gardening and sharing that love. We often get into conversations with patients and visitors about gardens.

“Every time we come here it's always special. We’re here to make the garden lovely for the patients, relatives and staff.”

For Hospice Care Week, we’re celebrating every corner of our hospices and the people who make them so special. Find out more about our hospices and the vital work they carry out.