Wildlife garden for hospice

Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh in the Keech Hospice Care garden with Suzanne and George Thomas, who has since died
Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh in the Keech Hospice Care garden with Suzanne and George Thomas, who has since died

Watching Alan Titchmarsh’s popular television show Love Your Garden on ITV on Tuesday (August 18) will be particularly poignant for Luton widow Suzanne Thomas.

Her husband George – who died of cancer in May last year – is shown chatting to the green-fingered gardener who spent a week at Keech Hospice Care with his team, transforming an uninviting patch of land into a widlife haven.

Suzanne, 55, sat nearby as Alan interviewed the man she married 31 years ago. She said: “George was so excited to be involved, he was like a kid who got all the sweets. It gave him such a lift and he would talk about it all the time.

“When he first went to Keech he loved looking out from his room on to the garden. He loved to hear the birds sing and see the squirrel that visited him every morning.”

Suzanne, of Catherall Road, added: “I felt so privileged listening to him talk about his past and his love of nature. It’s fitting that he was able to tell his story just before he died.”

Markyate mum Mary Rishworth is also full of praise for the new facility. Her five-year-old son Jack has Downs Syndrome, severe epilepsy and cerebral atrophy.

She said: “Meeting Alan Titchmarsh was amazing. He’s really brought the area to life with jumping frogs and the sound of blackbirds singing.

“We’ve had picnics in the garden and the children enjoy using it as part of their music therapy and sensory learning with all the plants and flowers. It makes you feel happy and free from worries for a time.”

Keech Hospice Care was chosen from more than 100 special organisations to get the Titchmarsh touch.

The celebrity broadcaster, who’s written 29 books – including three biographies and several novels – said: “It was a great honour to be involved in the creation of a garden for Keech.

“It’s clearly made a tremendous difference to the surroundings and is appreciated by the staff as well as patients and their families.

“I hope it continues to offer hope and inspiration for many years to come. Gardens have tremendous healing properties – as the Keech wildlife garden proves.”

Staff nurse Juliette Benson said not only did she and her colleagues often sit or walk around the garden but it also was somewhere peaceful for patients and their families to go for quiet contemplation and relaxation.

“It really is beautiful,” she said. “And we always notice something new and exciting.”

> Keech is throwing open its doors for the official opening of the Alan Titchmarsh Garden on Sunday, August 23, from 11am to 4pm.

The family-friendly KEECHFEST party features a fabulous live line-up including X Factor favourites Voices with Soul and Daniel Duke from BBC’s The Voice. The crowd will also be entertained by a number of West End performers and dancers, with plenty to keep the kids amused.