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The concept for St Ann's Hospice's Embrace garden evolved from a collection of words that are significant to the Hospice’s approach to care. Words like life, healing, hope, reflection, therapeutic, positivity, secure, sense, energy, surprise and forty, as 2011 marked the Hospice’s 40th anniversary.

The significance of language in the Hospice became even more apparent when I was shown a wall mural in the Spiritual room that featured a collection of words taken from conversations the artist, Stephen Raw, had with the patients, the staff and the families. Some of the words I had collated were on the mural, balanced by the presence of the difficult words like ‘silence’, ‘crying’, ‘pain’, ‘fear’. I was intrigued by this artwork and its relevance to the brief I was developing.

Stephen was commissioned to create the mural in 2007 and has written about his experiences of creating this piece of artwork for the Hospice on his website; this stood out for me:

“There are places on journeys where spoken and written language cannot go, but somehow we seem to continue to struggle with it all. As the novelist Penelope Lively writes: “Language tethers us to the world, without it we spin like atoms”.”

Language is the most significant feature in the day-to-day running of the Hospice and it became obvious that I needed to incorporate a word into the design; somehow in a natural, organic way.

The final piece of inspiration for the garden came from the poignant words of one of the hospice’s patients, Kenneth Charles Weston, featured in a short film called ‘Why St Ann's Hospice needs your support’ presented by Chief Executive Jayne Bessant.

Kenneth’s words are moving and simple that retell his personal story within the care of the Hospice.

“I’ve never ever felt so much love and affection off nurses and staff ever since I’ve been ill. When I first started coming here everyone was hugging me and putting their arms around me, I had never had this before.”

It was his words that pulled together all the ideas and inspired the title of the garden to be ‘Embrace’. The word ‘Embrace’ attempts to fuse together all the words I had collected while creating a sense of embrace as a physical connection and an emotional presence. ‘Embrace’ had to be featured and it was decided that we would define the word using plants in a living wall at the back of the garden. I invited Stephen to design the lettering to connect back to the wall mural at the Hospice.


It is a garden in which to feel secure, to think, relax and reflect. Natural, rustic materials and an abundance of plant life envelope and sooth. Closely hugging the curve of the tree trunk seat is a band of richly textured plants with an emphasis on possessing medicinal properties [Thyme, Alchmilla mollis, Ajuga] and tactile, contrasting foliage. This soft, inner green band gives way to a vibrant scheme, blue hues [reflecting St Ann's brand colour], blue/purple/pink tones, creamy whites and splashes of rich red.

Earth surrounding the central seating is carefully sculpted to create a mini-ampitheatre of plants up from ground level at the front of the exhibit, increasing in height towards the garden's boundaries to create an extra sense of enveloping plant life.

Awarded Silver medal sponsored by John Lewis, Cheadle.