GREEN-FINGERED groundsmen at St George’s Hospital have scooped a top, London-wide prize for gardening.

Beating off horticultural competition from hospitals throughout the capital, a team of five gardeners from St George’s has won second place in the annual London Hospitals Gardens Competition run by the London Gardens Society.

St George’s was beaten to first place by a BUPA care home in Sidcup, Kent. St Thomas’ Hospital came third.

St George’s last won first prize back in 2002. In the twelve years that the hospital has entered the awards in the category of hospital gardens over one hectare – it has always finished in the final three.

Head Gardener Bob Holdawanski has worked at St George’s Hospital for the last 14 years. Speaking about his team’s record achievement, he said:
“I’m really pleased. It’s wonderful news not just for me but for all the lads who work incredibly hard to keep the grounds of the hospital to a high standard.

“The gardens of a hospital are always important. If patients see well-kept grounds and gardens when they come in to hospital something that is bright and colourful it relieves some of the anxiety they feel and reassures them that the treatment they’re going to get is top-notch.

“This is meant to be a healing environment after all and by bringing a little bit of nature to patients we can hopefully help them recover more quickly.”

Bob and his team of groundsmen some of whom are volunteers from the local community with learning difficulties – maintain three and a half hectares of land around St George’s Hospital every day. The grounds feature over 90 different types of tree, including witch elms, Japanese maples and dawn redwood, several hundred species of flower – not to mention an abundance of wildlife.

“Over the last three or four years, we’ve really taken the gardens forward,” Bob adds, and we’re aiming to bring in new gardens all the time.”

Bob and his team are now hard at work preparing for next year’s competition and are have already started to plant over 40,000 bulbs for the spring.

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spends around £100,000 every year maintaining the grounds of the three hospitals of St George’s, Bolingbroke and the Wolfson Neuro-rehabilitation Centre.