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.”
By 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.