I retired 13 years ago from a quite exhausting job – boarding house mistress to 105 teenage girls and then gave myself a little break. After a while I decided that I needed to do something so took on a couple of volunteering roles, but still felt I had time to give. At supper with a friend I discovered that she was volunteering with Chase (as it was then ) so applied to join her. I was delighted to be assigned to the garden where I joined an already well-established team. Many of them have since left but the work goes on!
We look after the gardens at Christopher’s (though fortunately someone else mows the lawns). This obviously involves a good deal of weeding, pruning and watering –especially over last year’s drought – but also refreshing some of the beds. I’m really not keen on cotoneaster –in my view a rather institutional plant so am on a mission to replace the bushes we have with ‘softer’ planting. A garden is always a work in progress! I arrive about 9.00 for a morning shift but sometimes don’t leave until 3.00ish depending on what needs to be done. We quite regularly now have a group of corporate volunteers who come in for the day and they have been extremely useful adding much needed ‘man’ power and muscle to tackle the heavier jobs.
Last year one of the gardens at the Chelsea Flower show was dedicated to the hospice and after it had been dismantled 2,500 plants were delivered to Christopher’s. I worked with the designer of the garden deciding where all these plants should go. Then the drought happened – we did our very best to keep everything going but inevitably some did ‘turn up their toes’. Nature is wonderful though and now the new beds and the additional planting elsewhere have definitely enhanced the gardens.
It’s really good to see the children and families out enjoying the lovely grounds and very gratifying to be complimented by staff as they pass. I was also delighted to be invited to meet the Duchess of Edinburgh when she visited and am doing my level best to keep the tree that she planted alive and well!
When I am not at Christopher’s, I volunteer in various other roles, do ‘Granny’ duties each week and try to keep my own garden under control.