It's the most important garden I've created

TV garden and landscape designer and RHS luminary James Alexander-Sinclair has designed hundreds of gardens but the one that means the most to him is Horatio’s Garden, Glasgow.

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The garden is at a spinal injuries unit where it clearly demonstrates its healing powers. It is probably the most important garden I have made in my life. I have a routine when I visit. My flight arrives at 8am and I get a taxi to the garden. I open the gate that leads to the woodland garden and no one is there. Nobody has arrived yet, it’s just me. It’s a really, really precious moment.

© Chaz Oldham

© Chaz Oldham

Hospitals are not private places and the patients at the Spinal Unit have experienced a trauma that will change their lives forever – often in a split second. The garden is as a place of sanctuary, in which they can adapt. Somewhere they can sit and talk and cry and get used to what their lives have become. It makes you appreciate what you have.

It’s changed immeasurably in the years I have known it. When I first saw the site, it was a rat-ridden siding on the motorway that leads to the Clyde Tunnel. Now it is full of life and colour, trees, plants and bulbs. And, invariably and unashamedly, I cry every time I go there.

There is scent and birdsong, choirs of angels, and the gentle rumble of traffic passing is ever-present. The woodland has been an amazing transformation and I am engaged in a battle – I am determined that the trees will grow large enough to hide the road signs.

There is an army of volunteers supervised by Sallie, the wonderful head gardener. They do an extraordinary job and hang out in one of the nicest sheds in Scotland! There’s a constantly overflowing biscuit tin – an important part of the healing process.

Gardens make people happy and, as with any beautiful garden, I feel my blood pressure drop as I arrive. But rather than pleasing just one client or family, Horatio’s Garden will still be giving comfort to patients, relatives and staff for many years to come.

Words: Naomi Slade

The Scottish National Spinal Unit, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, 1345 Govan Road, Glasgow, G51 4TF