The David Robinson Memorial Lecture 2023

Bord Bia were delighted to return to the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15, for 2023’s David Robinson Memorial Lecture.

The theme of this year’s lecture was ‘The Benefits of Gardens and Horticulture in a Healthcare Setting’. The delegates were thrilled to have renowned British garden designer and writer, James Alexander-Sinclair, talk about the garden he created in 2016 for the charity, Horatio’s Garden, at the Scottish National Spinal Injuries Centre in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden nurtures the wellbeing of people after spinal injury in beautiful vibrant sanctuaries within the heart of NHS spinal injury centres. In his uplifting talk, James showed the site at the Scottish Spinal Injuries Centre before, during and after the development of Horatio’s Garden, and described the impact and benefits it has had on patients and their families.

With his long track record of working with community groups, Mathew Lee was an obvious choice as head gardener for Horatio’s Garden Belfast, which is currently under construction at Musgrave Park Hospital.

At the Ashtown event, Mathew gave an inspiring presentation, outlining the plans and progress for the Belfast site, and describing the intricacies of developing the garden in an existing functioning hospital location.

Also speaking on the day was Marie Hirst, who set up her social and therapeutic horticulture business, ‘Unwind with Plants’, in 2021. Marie informed the audience of a therapeutic gardening project piloted across five HSE Community Healthcare East sites in 2022.

Run by HSE’s Fiona Brauneisen and delivered by Marie, the project’s success led to its continuation and expansion in 2023. Marie described the positive influence that the venture has had on both clients and staff in these healthcare settings.

In the afternoon, students took the opportunity to explore the Teagasc campus and its various projects, guided by Teagasc staff. Michael Gaffney led a tour ‘Beyond Peat’, on peat-alternative growth media; Brian McGuinness led a tour of the mushroom research unit; Gavin Fowler brought delegates to the fruit and vegetable teaching garden and grounds; and Paul Fitters showcased the Euro-Trial in which 100+ Hydrangea paniculata cultivars are compared for their garden excellence.