Glorious gardens

PUBLISHED: 03:38 25 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013

Glorious gardens

Glorious gardens

Beth Lynch has written a remarkable book in aid of St Michael's Hospice in St Leonards on Sea to thank the team for the care they gave her late father

IN 2012 Beth Lynch was looking for a way to demonstrate her thanks for the care given to her late father by the nursing teams at St Michaels Hospice.As a garden designer with a passion for the English language, she seemed Heaven-sent to the Hospice staff who had been considering putting together a book highlighting some of the beautiful gardens taking part in the Hospice Open Garden scheme.

Much to the delight of the Hospice, Beth agreed to take on this task and write essays on the 36 gardens which feature in the book.

Formerly an English lecturer at Cambridge University, Beth said: Much of my life has been shaped by a Sussex garden. My early horticultural forays were serial and inexplicable enthusiasms.

Once my father had retired and my mother began to work part-time, their garden evolved exponentially. Soon after my mother retired we really began to discuss plants. Shortly afterwards, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was an unspeakable summer, and the palliative care was not forthcoming until the eleventh hour.

Whilst I was officially writing my doctoral thesis, a few minutes snatched to plant some hostas or uproot an offensive berberis became several hours absorption. Upon arrival at our house, my father would head straight for the back door to inspect the garden and any mutual visit involved at least one trip to a nursery in a spirit of spendthrift complicity. We discussed plants endlessly on the telephone.

In failing health my father continued to garden when many would have given up. He spent his final months in St Michaels Hospice and died there peacefully in 2009. A few months later, I began to retrain as a garden designer.

The warm, understated expertise of his care at St Michaels incurred a profound debt of gratitude and, wishing to give back a little of what we had received from the Hospice, I contacted the fundraising team.

By coincidence, plans were already afoot for a twenty-fifth anniversary collection of essays, as yet without an author, on the Hospices Open Gardens. I received a brief to visit 36 gardens, interview the owners and write a book about what I had discovered. The book records, if it cannot repay, an immeasurable debt to St. Michaels Hospice.

Hospice Chairman, Julian Avery said: The book is the result of many months of hard work, dedication and passion by a remarkable supporter of St Michaels Hospice. It was born out of a simple idea in 2010 Why not create a book to showcase some of the beautiful gardens that have opened their gates in aid of St Michaels Hospice over the last 20 years, and tie this in with the Hospices Silver Jubilee in 2012?

The book is a celebration and a tribute to the garden owners and the team of Open Garden volunteers who, every year, give so freely of their time and energies to ensure that each event goes smoothly.

Beth has spent time with the garden owners and captured the essence of each garden, studying the history of the gardens and their evolution into the stunning show pieces that they are today. Gardens such as Pashley Manor, Merriments Gardens, Cleveland House, Peasmarsh Place and some in Hastings Old Town are described in absorbing detail and illustrated with beautiful photographs.

The book is to be launched on the 30th April at Cleveland House and amongst those invited are the generous owners whose gardens feature in the book and the dedicated team of Open Garden volunteers.

The Open Gardens scheme was started in 1992 by a small group of volunteers who thought it was a wonderful way to raise funds for St Michaels Hospice, now 20 years later there are over 300 gardens on the database and many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised for the Hospice

  • The 2012 Open Garden programme starts on 24th April with a Bluebell Walk and ends on 20th October with an autumn visit to Peasmarsh Place, for further details visit our website

  • The Anthology of East Sussex Gardens will be on sale from May 1st 2012 and orders can be placed in advance of this date by emailing your request to

  • Books cost 10.00 with all proceeds going to support the ongoing work of St Michaels Hospice.

About St Michaels Hospice

For St Michaels Hospice, 2012 marks a very special year. On April 24th, the Hospice will celebrate 25 years of providing specialist palliative care services to people with life-limiting illnesses in Hastings and Rother. Over that time, the Hospice has served an astonishing 12,500 people from an area which ranges broadly from Bexhill across to Rye, and Hastings up to Ticehurst and Etchingham.

When the Hospice first opened its doors in 1987, its target was to raise 1.25million to continue providing its services which include 30 in patient beds, a Day Therapy Centre; a Hospice at Home service; a night-sitting service; bereavement and social support and chaplaincy services for people of all faiths and beliefs.It now needs to raise over 3million from voluntary sources each and every year. While some of this is simply due to inflation, the scale of services the Hospice now offers has expanded hugely.

Charity Ball

As part of the ongoing celebrations in this 25th anniversary year of St Michals Hospice there is to be a fabulous black tie ball on Saturday 1st September, kindly sponsored by Jon Ray Building Ltd. The organisers, a small entirely voluntary committee, are delighted to be able to use the grounds of Vinehall School in Robertsbridge as the marquee venue for this event. Tickets are 95 for a 3 course dinner, live auction and dancing. For further information and a ticket application form please contact Jane Tritton

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