Parkinson’s UK in partnership with the National Garden Scheme

Garden owner case study: Sally Monkhouse

“My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in his late fifties. A fit, healthy man with a high powered job at Cadbury’s and an amateur artist who’d exhibited at the Royal Academy, suddenly faced with a very different future. The prospect of not being able to paint – the love of his life – was devastating.

“But my parents were a formidable team. They took early retirement and moved to a beautiful Cotswolds town with a smaller house and garden. Dad was determinedly positive. He walked several times a day, and although he couldn’t draw precisely with his shaking hand, his paintwork became freer, brighter, more flowing and rather beautiful.

“As the disease progressed, I lost my father’s lovely expressions. His speech became slower and less clear, his face still and immobile, but his eyes shone with fun, intelligence and liveliness. He was still there, but his poor body was changing. My 8 year old begged not to go for walks with Grandpa because he fell down so often it frightened her and she felt responsible. We helped her overcome these feelings and my father began using a Zimmer frame to reassure her. I remember both of us hysterically laughing as I tried to help him up from a chair and he became ‘stuck’, freezing mid-air. Awful – but so helped by laughter.

“If Parkinson’s UK had existed then, I think we would’ve been more in tune with what he went through, more able to give him practical help. One of the reasons we open our garden for the NGS is to support Parkinson’s UK – we know first-hand the difference their help could make to a family living with this difficult disease.

“We first opened our garden for the NGS 11 years ago and have raised a grand total of about £25,000 for charity to date! We try to make our garden as accessible as possible with wide paths for wheelchairs and lots of seating so people who struggle can pause whilst exploring.

“It’s the sort of garden my father would’ve loved – lots of wildflowers, bulbs in spring and a focus on wildlife. A recent addition to the garden is a sculpture we’ve designed to represent life – however long or short – and the influences of our family, friends, health and world events. My father is in the design, as are my children and friends and so, I hope, are the families that visit our garden.”

Sally’s garden is called Truffles, and is located in Bishop Sutton near Bristol. NGS gardens open across England and Wales – find your nearest garden at ngs.org.uk