I have always been a keen gardener and interested in nature and the outdoor life. So when I retired eight years ago, part of my retirement plan was to join the team of volunteer gardeners at Saint Francis Hospice.

I chose the hospice because of the comfort I got from walking around the gardens when visiting family members who were nursed there.

It has been a great experience working with the head gardener who has given me many gardening ideas and new skills.

The gardens have an excellent selection of plants and trees. One particular plant is the Pemberton Rose; a collection which is a renowned world class rose, originally cultivated and grown close to the hospice.

The flower beds are special to our patients who can sit with their visitors and enjoy the outside space, especially on a sunny day. What pleases a volunteer gardener the most is seeing the delight and pleasure it has given them.

The gardens can be challenging, especially during autumn and leaf fall, but worth it when we are praised and receive many a sincere thank you. Our reward is the hospice receiving awards for best gardens after entering competitions held in Havering and Greater London. We have also held open garden days, which have drawn lots of visitors who admire our planting.

The grounds are often used to hold fundraising events too, so we ensure the summer pots and container planting are at their best.

The two fish ponds also require some maintenance from time to time. Water plants might need pruning, to give the fish room and oxygen during warm weather.

During the Covid-19 outbreak volunteering has been particularly affected because of the restrictions of age or health and safety. Now that the vaccination programme is progressing widely I don’t think it will be too long before we are back to normal. Just in time for spring gardening! I expect there will be a lot of composting and tidying to do when we all get back into gear.

I’ve made new like-minded friends by volunteering. It’s good to be part of a team, so I can’t wait to meet up with them all again.

Thinking of joining us? Don’t think twice – make that call or go online to apply at www.sfh.org.uk/volunteer. Help us make the gardens a haven to remember.