Julia Smith NHS
June is normally a very busy time for Thrive Horticultural Therapist Julia in the Thrive Reading gardens as she supports client gardeners’ preparations for our annual Flower Show.

This year is no less busy for Julia, but she’s swapped our gardens for the NHS while on furlough.

Julia is helping kidney patients as a staff nurse at a local hospital’s Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis Unit.

‘We see patients at home to train them, monitor how the treatment is going and troubleshoot if they have any problems,’ says Julia, who began working in this unit two decades ago, before becoming a Thrive volunteer and then training in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and working at Thrive.

A former colleague in the renal unit contacted Julia to see if she might be able to help after two of her team needed to shield themselves from coronavirus.

When the government announced nurses could get temporary registration to help the NHS response to coronavirus, Julia realised she could help.

Julia Smith NHS 2
Unmasked: Julia in the renal unit.

Gardening fix

After clearing some administrative hurdles, Julia was back in NHS colours and was being assessed on how to carry out dialysis.

‘I could remember it all on the first practice! I am surprised by the things I have remembered and the things that haven’t changed.’

Coronavirus, however, has changed her working appearance: ‘We wear masks, aprons and gloves when we see patients and the patients are also given masks so we can all keep safe. We are not having any problems getting the PPE we need.’

And although she is missing Thrive and the client gardeners, Julia is still getting her gardening fix at home:

Doing jobs in the garden makes me think of our client gardeners and the things they enjoy doing


‘I have a small garden but have been working in that. I’ve been doing things I had been putting off like clearing out my water feature and potting on lots of tiny sempervivums that I want to turn into carpet bedding, which are growing so well there are more to divide. I feel very lucky to have some outside space to enjoy.

‘Doing jobs in the garden makes me think of our client gardeners and the things they enjoy doing, like turning compost, growing tomatoes, seed sowing, pricking out and potting on.

‘It makes me wonder how they are all getting on and are they ok? I really hope it will not be too long until we can all return but it needs to be when it is safe for everyone.’

Village to the rescue

The villagers of Beech Hill near our Reading centre have stepped in to rescue our gardens during the lockdown period. This is Christine's experience of volunteering to keep our gardens maintained

Find out more