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6th October 2020

We do our bit and make the garden look tidy for another week

Cally Boutle has been volunteering as a gardener for 35 years, starting a few weeks before The Hospice opened in 1985.

One of only two of the original gardeners left, Cally continues to join the team of volunteers in amongst the shrubbery every week and here she shares her memories…

Cally Boutle


It's just so nice to be part of a gardening team. I like gardening. There was an article in the Standard by Margaret Farrow, the lady who organised the original garden team, saying that she needed gardeners and I applied and that’s how I started. 

My first day here I spent picking up stones from the front area where the car park is now. It had all just been ploughed up and was full of big stones because I think it had been farmer’s yard. The Young Farmers came along and stone picked as well… that’s all we did really when we were just starting up.

Margaret knew someone from a local nursery and he came and advised her what to plant and we gradually made flowerbeds. We were all amateurs, none of us had trained; we just all liked gardening, that’s all.

I’ve been involved in doing various projects over the years and planting up various areas. My favourite part of the garden is the courtyard because I’ve always been involved in that; I designed it and planted it up. In the very beginning, there used to be a budgie cage in the courtyard before all of the building was done, but they weren’t happy, and eventually it was done away with.

Lots and lots of people donated things to get us started; there was a greenhouse and our gardeners shed, which was moved round the back when the day centre was built.

In the early days, the pond was very silted up with water lilies and with a lack of rain, it didn’t fill up, so the fire service came and pumped it out and filled it up again.

Royalty came and opened various bits and pieces. The Queen Mother came and the atmosphere was fantastic. It was very crowded. It was amazing. I don’t know if she commented on the garden because I was right in the background!

Many things have changed in the garden; new flowerbeds made, old flowerbeds covered in. My late husband mowed the lawns; we had a ride on mower in those days because of course the front car park was just lawn so that needed a huge amount of mowing.

The garden is somewhere for patients and families to go and it’s been laid out so it’s accessible with wheelchairs now, the terrace especially. It wasn’t to start with; it was paved but then the pavers lifted and it all got rather tatty so it was done over with much better access, and of course patient beds can go out there too.

I have on occasion seen people coming out and having a weep in a corner somewhere. I don’t know how the nurses do their job inside. I do admire all the inside staff; they are amazing.

Gardening at The Hospice is just something I like doing. There’s a nice team of lovely, friendly people, it’s really nice. We do our bit and make it look tidy for another week.  

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.

Gardening team c.1989

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