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Steven Wells rehab garden

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

January 7, 2013

Steven Wells has recently been named ‘Gardener of the Year’ by Gardening Australia for his wonderful sensory rehabilitation garden at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital in Melbourne. A nurse, horticulturist and gardener, Steven has spent several years turning a sterile, institutional space and walkways between several buildings at the hospital into a garden that encourages patients with spinal cord, brain and neurological damage, as well as amputees, down that long, hard rehab road. Everywhere you look, there is something to delight both patients and their visitors.

Beautiful use of light, shade and colour. Steven Wells sensory garden at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital

Beautiful use of light, shade and colour. Steven Wells sensory garden at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital

Colour comes from painted walls and colourful-leaf foliage; there are texture contrasts with grasses and broad-leafed succulents, and patterns of light and shade. Several separate seating areas created by low walls, screens, plants and shaded by maturing trees accommodate a number of patients and their carers in privacy but everywhere can be accessed by wheelchair and walker.

It’s a garden of easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plants, most of which can be readily struck from cuttings. But that doesn’t make it ordinary. Steven’s ability to put together succulents with conifers and then add Australian natives and pretty perennials to make very appealing plant pictures clearly shows that the plant ‘apartheid’ that exists in so many Australian gardens – where we feel we have to grow either this group or that, but not mix them up – is a load of nonsense. Look at those Australian grass-like lomandras with South African cotyledon and Italian cypress. Perfect.

And I’m really keen to have a go at copying his graded-colour painted walls. But I doubt I’d be as successful!

Click on any photo to see a larger image slideshow. You can also click the photos in the slideshow (top right corner) to see a full-size version.

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Kim Woods Rabbidge
10 years ago

Great story Catherine and lovely pics – they really show the diversity of Steven’s creativity.

kasey Johnson
kasey Johnson
6 years ago

is it possible to purchase the ants ?

steven
steven
6 years ago
Reply to  kasey Johnson

Hi Kasey. Melissa Thomas is the artist who creates these ants and you can contact her via http://melissathomas.com.au and she’ll let you know about her ants 🙂 Cheers, Steven

Alison
Alison
10 years ago

A brilliant series of pictures Catherine. Steven has done an excellent job with plant selection and design/layout. I really like his work.

Phileppa
Phileppa
10 years ago

What a wonderful, creative garden.. what a clever and talented gardener/nurse/carer of the spirit!

grim
grim
9 years ago

Ha kin love it Steven. oh that plant won’t work with that blah blah blah.
Ya gotta have some vision people this fella has in bucket loads.
If it don’t work pull it and try again all of these plants can take that sort of treatment.
You must feel so proud ever day to see the people lapping it all up ,probably not even knowing its the garden that is giving them a lift.
Onya G.

Chris Pope
Chris Pope
10 years ago

An amazing garden that has impacted the recovery of so many.