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St Francis Hospice – planting and caring

Passing St Francis Hospice (at Havering Green in Essex) I caught a glimpse of their front door. It looked so beautiful and inviting that I went to investigate. The handsome door is flanked by tubs with plants in clear bright colours, full of life and vigour. Their fresh, well ordered appearance speaks of the vigilant care and attention that they receive.


A week later I still recall these images and feel refreshed by them. Plants that are well tended nurture the spirit and, quite simply, make one feel better. The plants at the hospice reflect the care that the patients will receive, as well as the gift of beauty. In case all this sounds too heavy I am reminded of a very old joke that my father used to tell:

A priest is walking down a lane when he sees, through a gate, a beautiful garden that’s being tended by a gardener. ‘You and God have created a beautiful garden’ the priest says.  ‘Aah!’ the gardener returns, ‘you should have seen it when God had it on His own.’

A gratifying joke that’s not just cynical but an affirmation that gardens need care. The human interventions – planting, pruning, deadheading, weeding and feeding, all those adjustments to the natural world – give a positive charge to nature, a managed beauty. You do have to know when to stop though!

Susan A. Tindall

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