Explorer and conservationist Robin Hanbury-Tenison spent weeks in an intensive care unit battling to recover from coronavirus.

The 84-year-old became ill in March and ended up being in an induced coma for five weeks.

But when he came round, it wasn’t in ICU or on a ward but in the hospital’s Secret Garden.

‘They wheeled me out in a great big bed, with tubes going out in all directions, just to a flowerbed with a shaft of sunlight coming down into the courtyard,’ he told The Guardian. ‘There was a glorious moment when I woke up and was aware that I was back.’

He left Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in May appreciative not only of the caring efforts of the ICU staff but also of the garden’s impact on him.

We shouldn’t forget the healing power of nature. I think hospitals should have secret gardens. It’s a magical thing.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison
Derriford garden 1
Tom Massey, Kate Tantam (far right) and others who helped create the Secret Garden.

‘We shouldn’t forget the healing power of nature. I think hospitals should have secret gardens. It’s a magical thing,’ he said.

For the hospital, the non-clinical setting of the Secret Garden plays a key role in ‘supporting patients and loved ones to feel normal and to engage with their rehabilitation needs and their future’.

But it’s not just patients and families who have benefited from exposure to the garden, which was created with donations of plants that had been destined for the Chelsea Flower Show with help from garden designer Tom Massey.

I cannot give my colleagues a hug, but these flowers will.

Intensive Care Specialist Sister Kate Tantam

After long shifts wearing hot PPE, staff have been enjoying the cool of the garden and a chance to step away from the intensity of work, taking time to reflect and experience the restorative benefits of the green space.

Intensive Care Specialist Sister Kate Tantam, who coordinated the creation of the courtyard garden, said: ‘I cannot give my colleagues a hug, but these flowers will.’

Derriford says its Secret Garden is the first ICU Rehabilitation space for patients, families and staff in the UK and such has been the positive reaction to it, that plans are afoot to improve it further with the creation of a rehabilitation garden room.

Julia answers NHS call

June is normally a very busy time for Thrive STH Practitioner, Julia in the Thrive Reading gardens as she supports client gardeners’ preparations for our annual Flower Show.

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