'It's my passion': Volunteer brings Hawkesbury hospital's Serenity Garden back to life

WHEN 64-year-old Vickie Hyde goes in for a knee replacement next month, she's worried about who will tend her garden.

And she's not referring to her home garden, though she will also miss spending time in that.

For the past year, the Hobartville resident has been lending her green thumbs on a volunteer basis to the Serenity Garden at Hawkesbury hospital.

"I bring cuttings from home and garden ornaments, and to put a pat on my shoulder, everyone gets a lot of joy out of it, the patients and the visitors," she told the Gazette.

Mrs Hyde and her husband Fred moved to the Hawkesbury from Kellyville four years ago, after looking for somewhere quiet and green to spend their retirement.

It was a Richmond-based beautician who told Mrs Hyde about the Serenity Garden, and after meeting with the head of volunteers at the hospital and passing a mandatory police check, Mrs Hyde was brought on as a volunteer.

"That's how it all started," she said.

"When I started about a year ago, the basics were all there in the garden but with noone there to take care of it some things were half dead.

"I go in twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays for about four hours - or longer if it needs it - and I'm passionate about what I do.

"It's lovely for the patients and a lot of the staff have said to me 'look what you've done, Vickie!'

"It's about to start blooming everywhere because it's spring."

The Serenity Garden is located between the Maria Lock and Florence Risbey wards at Hawkesbury District Health Service, and was launched in 2017. It includes a Monet-inspired mural and is a place of refuge for patients, families and caregivers - an escape from the clinical environment of the hospital.

Mrs Hyde sometimes needs to change the days she volunteers because her mother had cataract surgery and needs help going to appointments.

A year ago, the garden was a place for native plants, but Mrs Hyde has added a bunch of succulents which are flourishing alongside the larger plants.

"There was a wheelbarrow sitting there empty and it's flourishing now with succulent cuttings I brought from home," she said.

"I bring my own fertiliser and snail killer, little things out of my own pocket, because they're on a budget at the hospital."

She waters the garden using rain water from a tank.

What does she get out of it? "The satisfaction of seeing how it looks now. It's a labour of love for me. I look back and see what I've planted and how they're flourishing," she said.

"And also [I enjoy] talking to people. I meet a lot of people in there. I might make them a cup of coffee. Others have [friends or family members] in palliative care and they need someone to talk to.

"Others don't want to talk and I just go about my gardening. I know who wants to talk and who doesn't.

"I love it. It's a good pass time."

Mrs Hyde has had problems with arthritis since she was in her 30s, and finds gardening is a good way to keep her moving.

"It breaks the monotony. Gardening is my passion - it's what I do. When we moved in to our place [in Hobartville] the garden was very neglected, and now my husband says our backyard looks like a nursery."

The hospital chefs use the fresh rosemary and kaffir limes that are grown in the Serenity Garden for the hospital meals that they cook.

  • The Hawkesbury United Hospital Auxiliary is currently looking for volunteers to be patient companions. Contact secretary Patricia Naylor on 0417 990 920 to register your interest.

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