A clinic with a difference

diabetes gardenDiabetes Out There (DOT) is a specialist service for children and young people with type 1 diabetes.  They are trialling an innovative new monthly garden clinic, and last month saw the inaugural workshop. The children engaged in activities focused around the effects of exercise on blood glucose, and planted up a fabulous spiral garden of sunflowers, strawberries and vegetables – yum!

The DOT.dig project has been developed in response to poor attendance at the quarterly clinics for children and young people with type 1 diabetes.

From Nicholas Conway, consultant paediatrician “Levels of blood glucose control in Tayside are poor and these young people are placed at significantly increased risk of the complications above. With this in mind, DOT Tayside have undertaken a number of initiatives in an attempt to increase patient engagement; improve knowledge and understanding; and, ultimately, to improve glucose control.

The DOT team have run a variety of workshops and events aimed at young people and their parents over recent years, where clinics have been delivered in alternative settings, including a local community centre.  The DOT.dig concept was therefore informed by these experiences, whereby a small group of children were invited to attend a workshop held within the community garden, as an alternative to attending a traditional face-to-face clinic appointment.

All of those who attended on the day (including staff) enjoyed the event.  All of the attendees were keen to attend future events and so will be reappointed to attend a DOT.dig workshop in 3 months.  In the interim, additional dates and groups of children will be identified, with the aim to establish a monthly DOT.dig workshop in the near future.”

Co-design workshop and volunteer awards

We had a great session last week where we were exploring possible future directions for the garden – as well as looking at the obstacles we face.

There were no shortage of ideas!  Everyone had the chance to suggest new activities or features, which we grouped into different themes (see below).  We then spent some time with the 3 themes which had the most interest, working in groups to understand how they might be progressed (underlined themes).  If you are interested in getting involved with any of the ideas, or have an idea or comment of your own, please do get in touch.

After the workshop we awarded the first batch of our volunteer certificates – volunteer time amounted to around 2500 hours last year!  The garden wouldn’t exist without our wonderful volunteers – everything from planning to sowing; polytunnel building to bird feeding… This time, effort and creativity enables so many people to enjoy the garden when they visit – so thank you.

IDEAS
Water: wildlife pond, water fountain, wishing well
Communication: website, research into benefits of therapeutic gardening
Themed gardens: Japanese, continents garden, desert garden
Wildlife: bird hide, wildlife pond, more bee habitats (honey and bumble), animal corner
Garden features: pizza oven, time capsule, weather station, barbecue area, bike rack, low maze
Garden development: pear trees, snowdrops, expanding the garden, another polytunnel, own plots, more summer fruit
Skills and activities: more teaching sessions, bread making, preserves, beginners lessons in gardening, kite making, tai chi and yoga, photography club, cups of tea for visitors, cooking skills
Sales / enterprise: more veg for sale, shop for produce and crafts, growing food for hospital, create a cookbook, herbal calendar
People: more patients to visit the garden, day trips for volunteers, corporate volunteering for big jobs

CHALLENGES
Access: From hospital – no proper door or path, lack of signage, car parking, better awareness
Funding: sustainability, secure future
Facilities: lack of toilet, water and electricity
Health and safety: security, hygiene, safety, steps to leaf room, better wheelchair paths
Capacity: more volunteers, staff, more space for new features

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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Upcoming events

Tuesday 31st January 11am: planning a grass-free lawn.  We are hoping to give our orchard area a makeover by planting a low maintenance herbal lawn under the trees.  Come along to an initial meeting to find out more and share ideas for suitable plants – for more information http://www.grassfreelawns.co.uk/  All welcome, booking essential by emailing facilitator@ninewellsgarden.org.uk

Sunday 12th February 10am-12pm: Bird Watching in the Garden. Join Brian, our resident bird watcher to observe our feathered garden visitors. Please wrap up warmly. You may like to bring a camera, binoculars and a flask of something warm to drink.  All welcome, no booking required.

Thursday 16th February 2pm: Mosaic installation. Dundee Urban Orchard have given our mosaic it’s final touches.  Come along to see it being installed and find out more about upcoming mosaic and craft sessions.  All welcome, no booking required.

Thursday 23rd February 1-4pm: Co-design session and volunteer awards.  We’ll be working together to develop a vision for the garden.  How do we see the garden and charity develop?  What are the opportunities and challenges?  This workshop will take approximately 2 hours, after which we’ll have some refreshments and present our volunteers with their much deserved certificates!  All welcome, no booking required, please bring food or drink to share if you are able.

Volunteer Day Saturday March 25th 10am-3pm. Seasonal gardening tasks AND learn how to dowse for water with David Drummond – lets find those 9 wells!  All welcome; booking required if you would like to attend the dowsing workshop by emailing facilitator@ninewellsgarden.org.uk

Meet our newest Trustee

img_4813“After volunteering at the garden for a time it seemed natural to get involved with the committee as a trustee when asked if I would be interested.  This was a new experience for me having never been a trustee before.  

I have been made to feel very welcome and have been picking up on the ins and outs as I go along, feeling confident that I can give my thoughts freely and offer my help to the work of the committee where I can.  I have assisted with the opening of the new Leaf Room at the garden, purchased furnishings, discussed the itinerary and the catering needs  – all of which was very interesting and exciting.  I have been learning new skills and building on my own existing knowledge which makes it an enjoyable and a worthwhile experience which I would recommend to anyone considering getting involved Laura Robertson

We are currently looking for new members of the board – for new members with skills and experience to contribute to the planning and strategic development of the garden as it develops and who have an understanding of the role or therapeutic and community gardens.  Time commitment is generally no more than 3 hours per week, with a monthly evening meeting in Dundee.

For a full role description or for more information please contact our garden facilitator at facilitator@ninewellsgarden.org.uk or call 0754 074 6075

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What’s a weed?

weed squares

If you visit the garden, one of the first things you will notice is our ‘wild meadow’ – which is a really polite way of describing the area around our fruit trees.  We sowed this section with a perennial wildflower mix in the autumn, but the weeds have dominated and as a result it now looks a bit messy.  On closer inspection though, there are at least 40 different species of plant which are providing a really valuable habitat for ladybirds – on a wee wander through the area I counted at least 15, including some that were getting quite amorous!  Also, as you may know, weeds are just plants that are growing in the wrong place, and many of the weeds in this area have herbal or edible properties.  In the long term, we would like to develop this area into one that doesn’t look quite so neglected – if you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments.