A Review of July

Another month has passed by so I thought it was time for an update on my gardening at the hospice.

I am back from my holiday in Croatia and a good time was had by all. The weather was excellent, the food was excellent, the sightseeing was excellent and the company was alright too! One of the first things that I noticed as I stepped off the plane, after having been hit by the wall of hot air, was how brown and barren everywhere looked. It is the same in many Mediterranean countries. This is obviously the direct result of a lack of rain. By contrast, as you fly back to Manchester, you can’t help but notice how wonderfully green our lovely country is – obviously a result of too much rain! And boy has it been raining a lot since I got back.

The hospice gardens are looking fab, if I say so myself. The raised beds that we planted up at the end of June are looking glorious. I get so many comments from staff and visitors on how nice they are looking. I really appreciate being appreciated –  it is so rewarding, in a way that money isn’t always (although I do still want to be paid, if my boss is reading this!).

Raised Beds

We have had another large group of volunteers working with us last week. This time they were from Wigan Councils “Green Space’s” team, and  they were very useful to have around! 15 people came for two whole days, so we got masses done. They painted 5 benches, constructed 4 more, they made 3 composting bins out of old pallets, trimmed all the hedges and did some weeding. THANK YOU! It was also good to spend some time with the managers, including an assistant director, who were volunteering too. We were able to build some good links, and they will hopefully be able to support us again in the future.

Composting Bins

Wigan Council Volunteers

I was especially pleased to have the composting bins made. The soil quality isn’t great at the hospice, with lots of clay, so it is good to add compost to improve its structure. This can be quite expensive, so hopefully we can save some money by making our own.

There are so many plants that are flowering at the moment, including the crocosmia, rudbeckia, salvias and lavenders. But I want to make a special mention for two flowers that I have noticed this week. The first is an Aquilegia, I think! (If it isn’t, and you know what it is, please message me). And the second is Inula hookeri, with its wonderfully flamboyant flowers.


Inula hookeri

The Inula, appeared in the garden this year for the first time, without knowingly being plant by me or any of the volunteers. We think that it has hitched a ride with another plant that one of the volunteers brought in earlier in the year. What a bonus!

There is plenty of weeding and tidying to be getting on with at the moment. We are also preparing to open the gardens up for the National Garden Scheme on September 10th, so I am making sure that each area is going to be at its best. If anyone wants to come and visit the gardens you’d be more than welcome.

Until next time, happy gardening!

A Day With Some Volunteers

A month ago I wrote about how excited I was that I was going to be working with 6 volunteers. Unfortunately, due to illness, they had to cancel. They re-booked to come today. Like last time the weather was fabulous, so we were able to get on with painting the planters that I had hoped to do last time. And what a difference the “Red Cossack” paint has made.

Dan, Paul and Barry

Dan, Paul and Barry after painting the planters

We also had time to paint the Chines Bridge that was kindly donated to the Hospice by The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The bridge has made a real difference to the gardens by adding a focal point around the ponds.

Painting Chinese Bridge

Painting the Chinese Bridge

I want to thank Dan, Paul and Barry, who work for The Dept for Works and Pensions, for their help today and for their company. They seemed to enjoy themselves, getting away from their computers and helping others (especially me!). CHEERS!

I’ve had some lovely times at work recently, although it was rather wet earlier this week. The rain was much needed though by the plants and it has saved me doing any more watering. The downside of the rain is that the weeds have gone a bit mental. Why is it that they seem to grow twice as fast as the plants you want to be growing? This could become a blog all about weeds, but don’t worry –  it won’t! However, weeding does take up a lot of my time. This week I have been tackling cleavers and bittercress, as well as the ongoing battle with the horsetail. Both cleavers and bittercress have interesting methods of dispersal. Cleavers, or as I prefer to call it – “Sticky Willy”, is every child’s favourite weed. It’s the one which sticks to anything and everything, so the challenge is to stick it to your friends without them noticing. By being so sticky, the seeds get moved around. Bittercress on the other hand is much more conspicuous, but seems to get everywhere. Luckily it is easy to pull up. But as you do so, any seed heads that have formed, explode sending seeds in all directions. So as a gardener, the aim is to remove the weeds before they go to seed.

There have been some lovely flowers in the garden this week. Interestingly many of them are pink or purple. Here are a few that have taken my eye this week.

Cornflower and Bee

Mountain Cornflower and Bee


Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’

Candelabra Primula

Primula Pulverulenta

I am very excited about next week. I have been given a ticket to attend Chelsea Flower Show on Tuesday. I can’t wait. I’ll let you know next week how I get on. Until then, God Bless.

Jim’s Plant of the Week – Pieris Japonica Katsura

I woke this morning with great anticipation. I had 6 volunteers coming to help for the day. I had been praying for good weather because I was wanting to paint some large planters bright red and stain some weary old benches. The weather was cold, but beautifully sunny (a rare thing here in Wigan!).

They were due at 9:30am. By 10am I was wondering what had happened. I checked my work email, only to find out that due to illness they weren’t coming. Feeling a touch disheartened I set about the task on my own. The planters were in an inner courtyard. It was whilst there I discovered a stunning plant, which instanteously changed my mood. I decided that I had to share this plant and came up with the idea of “Jim’s Plant of the Week”.

So Jim’s first ever plant of the week is…. “Pieris Japonica Katsura”

Pieris Japonica Katsura

The bright, glossy maroon leaves are just gorgeous and mesmerising. Sadly they turn a rather dull green in due course, but hey ho, you can’t have everything.

I didn’t end up painting the planters, but I did paint 5 benches instead. The planters can wait for the volunteers to get better.

Bench before

Bench after







Thank you Pieris Japonica Katsura for cheering me up. I wonder what will be my next plant of the week?


More Good News

It’s a little bit like waiting for a bus, you wait for ages and then two come at once. Well, here’s my second blog post, just 24 hours after the first.


The good news today is that the volunteer gardeners are back from their winter break. Hooray! For the last three months it has been a bit lonely working away in the large hospice gardens with no-one to talk to. I don’t mind being on my own, but it is always nice to have someone to chat to and to bounce ideas off. It also means that you can accomplish a lot in a short space of time.

There is big building project about to start at the hospice. They are updating the rooms to make them more dementia friendly and a bit more modern, and there is to be an extension to improve the nurses working area. So today we dug up a load of plants that were going to be built on and moved them to other areas. We moved primroses, hellebores, monbretia and some rudbeckia. We managed to replant some, but have left others for later in the week.

Volunteering is so important for all parties. The hospice relies on its volunteers for all manner of jobs. In total there are over 800 people volunteering for the hospice. They garden, they work in the charity shops, they drive, help serve the dinners to patients, they fundraise and help to man the welcome desk to name but just a few of the jobs. Hospices wouldn’t be financially viable without the volunteers.

But volunteering also benefits the volunteer…

  • It is good for your mind by helping reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and by increasing happiness
  • It can be good for your body (especially gardening)
  • It connects you with others, helping to prevent isolation and allows you to make new friends
  • It gives a sense of purpose, by being able to help others. Many, by but by no means all,  of the volunteers at the hospice have experienced bereavement at some point and have benefited from the services that the hospice provides. By volunteering they are able to give something back.

So I want to say a big “thank you” to everyone who volunteers, especially to those at Wigan and Leigh Hospice who help me in the gardens…. THANK YOU!