A ‘patient’ volunteer – Fran Gillespie

When I was admitted to Ninewells Hospital last October I was fortunate enough to be given a bed beside a window with a magnificent view – not only overlooking a wide silvery stretch of the Tay estuary but also some acres of mature woodland and an intriguing-looking garden. “Designed by the Beechgrove Garden team,” I was told by one of the nurses. As an ambulant patient I was allowed out once the day’s treatment was complete, and, rather like Alice in Wonderland, how to get into the garden became my ambition.  I lost no time in heading for the garden, where I was told that anyone who wished to could lend a hand. And so I was introduced to Sarah and volunteered for gardening duties.

Being in hospital is a strange experience, so unlike one’s normal everyday life as to seem almost divorced from reality. The privilege of being able to do everyday jobs like weeding, dead-heading, sweeping leaves, cutting back plants for their long winter hibernation, really helped to keep me sane!  Even getting one’s hands dirty was a pleasure, as a break from the super-sterilised life on the ward.  “Next time I’m admitted to Ninewells I’ll be sure to bring my wellies with me,” I joked. The Community Garden, with its wide range of herbs, flowers, fruit bushes and vegetables, is a marvellous place in which to be and I spent as much time there as I could and also enjoyed daily walks in The Arboretum. Although I had to laugh on the day when I’d escaped to the garden both in the morning and the afternoon and a nurse came by my bed in the evening to give me an injection, “To stop blood-clotting, because you’ve been lying in bed all day.”

220px-archibald_menzies_1754-1842By the way, all you fellow gardeners, with the support of the Clan Menzies I’m currently raising funds to restore the sadly neglected grave in a London cemetery of Archibald Menzies, one of the great 18th century Scottish plant collectors. Think Monkey-puzzle tree, Noble and Douglas firs, Sitka spruce, Western Red Cedar – we owe not only these economically valuable trees but also the astonishing number of more than one hundred flowering garden plants to the efforts of that globe-trotting Scotsman. He deserves to be suitably commemorated. Please take a look at the clan website http://www.menzies.org/ and if you’d like to send a donation you can press the Donate button and send an email to the clan treasurer [address beside the button] making clear that your donation is for the Archibald Menzies Memorial Fund, or send a cheque to The Treasurer, The Clan Menzies Society. Castle Menzies, Weem, Aberfeldy, PH15 2LL.

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