Care home garden scheme takes root

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

VOLUNTEERS are pulling out the spades and gloves to renovate the garden of a Blackbird Leys care home.

Order of St John Care Trust home Longlands has launched a summer gardening initiative, and is calling on local businesses and volunteers to help rejuvenate its large garden and courtyard.

The home’s family liaison coordinator Luciano Thomas said: “We want to turn this garden into something spectacular. It should be a space that can be used by residents and their families when they visit.”

Members of The Conservation Volunteers,a national group set up in 1959 to ‘reclaim green places’, are among those who have started work on the garden.

Several brightly-coloured pots have been planted, and large sections of flowerbeds are being cleared ready for planting.

And it’s not just volunteers who are digging in. Families of the residents and residents themselves are being encouraged to take part.

Mr Thomas said: “Most of the residents used to live here and have family close by and we want to build the feeling that they are still part of the community rather than being enclosed here.

“It’s an activity they can do that’s practical and has an objective and builds up a relationship, rather than having an entertainer come in and then leave again.”

He said that in just a few weeks the project has already taken root, adding: “I’ve been surprised at how many people have gotten involved already.

“It’s going to be a fantastic year-long project for the garden.”

Keen gardener Paul Brackett, who already spends most of his free time working at the Sorrel Road allotments, is giving up several hours a week at the home.

He said: “I saw in the Oxford Mail that they were looking for volunteers, and I thought I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t get involved.”

Staff at the home appealed for volunteers to come forward on June 18, and Mr Brackett, 55, decided to answer their call.

He added: “One day I’ll probably be in there and I’d like to think there were people doing nice things for me then.”

The residents have cleared and planted a vegetable box, filling it with tomatoes, radishes and strawberries.

Resident Joyce Nagle, 92, said: “The gardens look good, much better in the past few weeks.”

“We could do with a few more pots and a bit more variety but on the whole we enjoy being outside.

“It’s wonderful that people give up their time to benefit others. I would like to help out when I can but I can’t do much any more.”

Fellow resident Patricia Johnson added: “It’s lovely to be in the sun for a while.

“Its good to have a bit of colour to look at and I don’t mind planting vegetables sometimes.”

Those wanting to help out can contact the home, in Balfour Road, on 01865 779224.

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