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Meet Nick – Head Gardener at St Barnabas House

Monday 7 October 2019

Main photo – crop to pano

Nick is responsible for the upkeep of the grounds and gardens at the hospice with support from an Assistant Gardener and a fantastic group of volunteers. Here, he gives an insight into his job and the important role the gardens play for patients and their loved ones.

“Growing up, I’d always been a keen gardener”

When an opportunity arose to make a total career change from sous chef to tree surgeon aged 24, I jumped at the chance. This led to me becoming a gardener on a self-employed basis, before joining St Barnabas House in 2017. At the time I was looking for a new challenge and a chance to work in an environment where I could give something back and make a difference to people and their surroundings.

 “We rely on green fingered volunteers”

The gardens have been transformed with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. Two areas which we’re particularly proud of are the pond area and the patient gardens.

Patients and their families love these outdoor spaces as they allow them the opportunity to spend time together in a tranquil and relaxing environment. A variety of flowers, shrubs and trees have been carefully selected to provide interest throughout the year. There is a mixture of planting that provides colour, scent and attracts birds and insects which can be enjoyed by all patients, whether they are staying on the In-patient Unit or attending the Day Hospice.

The feedback we receive on the gardens and the difference they make to patients and relatives gives my team and I a lot of satisfaction. We enjoy taking the time to answer people’s questions and can often be found sharing our knowledge of the wide variety of plants we have.

“The plants come from garden nurseries in West Sussex”

Whilst we do buy some of the plants, we are very fortunate to receive regular donations of plants from Ferring Nurseries as well as donations to specifically help us with the planting scheme.

My favourite plant in the gardens is the Cornus Kousa (Chinese Dogwood). It’s quite unusual as it comes out with pink and white flowers in May and then in late summer it produces berries. It’s the plant that most people enquire about as a lot of patients and families haven’t seen it before.

“We follow a planting scheme”

A lot of people don’t know that when St Barnabas House was built there was a planting scheme for the gardens. Over the last two years, my team have been working hard to deliver this original planting scheme. Currently, we’re looking at planting spring bulbs, starting with Alliums, along the main drive border and have plans to introduce Yellow Rattle to our wildflower meadow to help increase its diversity next year.

“I’m always in the garden at home too”

When I’m not working outside in the St Barnabas gardens, I enjoy spending my spare time in my own garden with the family. I am introducing my two young children to the gardening experience; however, they are keener on picking the flowers rather than planting them!