Celebrating Norman in the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at Chelsea

Cassie’s dad Norman was cared for by the team at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice. She talks about the support he received there in his final months, and how his love of gardening helped inspire some of the designs for Sue Ryder’s Grief Kind Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Norman Ward, sitting in a rowing boat holding an oar on a pond

The garden and its legacy

Norman Ward loved nothing more than spending time at his allotment with his best friend Gerry. The keen gardener, from St Ives, was a patient at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in Bedford when garden designer Katherine Holland came to visit.

Sue Ryder will present a garden in the ‘All About Plants’ category at Chelsea this year. The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden, sponsored by Project Giving Back, will be relocated to St John’s Hospice after the show and Katherine wanted to ensure that it was designed with the needs of hospice patients and their families in mind.

Norman, who had prostate and pancreatic cancer, was admitted to the hospice in January 2023. His daughter Cassie said: “I was going on holiday for a week when he initially went in. He said, ‘You go, I know I’m going to be ok.’ They helped him to manage his pain and he ended up staying.”

Garden Designer Katherine Holland, with St. John's Hospice staff, in the field where the Grief Kind Garden will be moved to

Garden designer, Katherine Holland, with hospice staff where the Grief Kind Garden will be relocated

Being at the hospice

“They were so lovely at the hospice. You would think it would be a sad place, but it was always such a happy place. It definitely changed my mind about hospices. Dad never really wanted to go to one but once he was there, he loved it. When he was at home dad wanted to do everything himself, but he was able to let go of all that at the hospice.

“While he was in the hospice he got talking to a staff member about gardening and his allotments, and she later came back to talk to him about Chelsea Flower Show. We took him out into the garden for walks in a wheelchair a couple of times. She took him around a bit that was being turned into a vegetable patch and asked him which veg he would recommend and where to put them. Also what he thought you would want from a garden as a patient and what sort of garden would be nice for your relatives to go and sit in.”

Dad would be so happy to know that the garden will have a home at St John’s Hospice after the show. It would have meant the world to him.

Cassie, Norman's daughter

Sharing his passion

“Then the garden designer went to visit him and absolutely loved sharing some of his ideas. I don’t think he thought it would ever come to anything. And I thought they were just trying to keep him interested and inspired, so to know that it’s actually going to happen is just brilliant. Dad would be so happy to know the garden project was going ahead and so pleased to know that the garden will have a home at St John’s Hospice after the show. It would have meant the world to him.”

Norman died at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice on March 3rd, 2023. He was 71.

Garden designer Katherine Holland says, “I am so pleased we have been able to incorporate some of Norman’s ideas into the garden design. We’re also celebrating his love for his allotment, as the steel garden surround that we’ll use at the show will be repurposed into raised beds for use in the hospice kitchen garden, where staff and volunteers will grow food for staff and patient meals.”

Camilla Flint's painting of the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden, showing two people surrounded by flowers and grass
Sue Ryder at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden will aim to start conversations around grief at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.
What is palliative or end-of-life care?
This page explains what palliative care and end-of-life care is, what type of care and support Sue Ryder provides, and who provides it.
A nurse in a blue Sue Ryder uniform smiles directly at the camera
Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice
Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice is in Moggerhanger in Bedfordshire. We provide expert palliative and end of life care in the hospice and the community. We are here to help you and your loved ones.