In the South West of London, St George’s Hospital recently had a stunning roof garden installed, designed by RHS Gold medalist Tony Woods, director at Garden Club, London. This week, Pro Landscaper speaks with both Tony, and chair of The John King Brain Tumour Foundation, the charity that will be adopting the garden, Laura King, to find out about the design’s inspiration, the garden’s meaning and its accessibility to less mobile patients.
With its rooftop location, subjecting the garden to different weather conditions to grounded work, Tony runs us through the horticultural considerations made to account for this. “This roof is actually quite sheltered compared to a lot of roof gardens that we design as it has a protective glass screen around it.
“This does cause temperatures to sore, especially as the garden is south facing, so the plants selected are all sun lovers and an irrigation system has been installed to keep them sufficiently watered,” Tony tells us. “We wanted some areas of the garden to provide shade from the sun, so for this we used pergola and plants to add a calming, scented effect to these areas.”
With many patients’ suffering from ailments that make them less mobile, or render them handicapped, the design had to ensure accessibility would not be an issue for those wanting to enjoy the garden. “To address the issue of accessibility, we made sure the garden is all on one level, and the areas between the planters and pergolas was wide enough to allow for wheelchair access all the way around.”
The design itself was not without its challenges, as Tony explains: “We had to work around the hospital staff and patients to minimise inconvenience and also gain approval from the hospital trust and facilities management. Although, getting materials to the roof was by far the biggest challenge.
Recently, Laura, wife to the late John King whom the charity is named after, spoke with the neuro surgeon that operated on her husband, Tim Jones, who was escorting an elderly gentleman around the new garden. “The elderly man was recovering from major surgery and he told Tim that it was the first time he had been out all summer. This moved Tim to tears.”
When asked about how they envisaged the garden, Laura tells us: “We wanted to transform the garden into a beautiful haven for patients to recover, often following major surgery, and this was certainly accomplished.”
“It’s medically proven that a garden environment will improve and speed up recovery, so the garden is perfect,” Laura continues.
“The John King Brain Tumour Foundation can never thank Tony and Garden Club, London enough for what they have achieved. The transformation of the garden is fantastic and is appreciated by so many people. The garden also provides a recreational space that the staff love. The first night it was finished the staff ordered food and celebrated the new garden.
“We could never have achieved this without Tony and his amazing support.”