And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden
There is a secret garden on the edge of the canton of Geneva, just a two-minute walk from the Port Choiseul in Versoix, which is hidden from view behind a tall, thick hedge. It is a place which brings together young and old and everyone in between, those in good health and those who live with disability or infirmity, in a spirit of community and social action. Since 2019, the Services Industriels de Genève has shared this 3000m2 plot, used by their nautical sports group, with seven local associations, including ESCA CS. The garden is used for a variety of social, physical, and artistic activities.
The Grassy Plot
The centre of this grassy plot is given over to a circular vegetable patch divided into growing beds: twelve equally sized segments fanning out from a central herb-filled spiral, like the petals on a flower. Two of these beds have been raised to a height which gives easy access to wheelchair users and elderly people with mobility issues. Vegetables and flowers are grown organically, mostly from seed, including heritage varieties. There is an outdoor kitchen, toilets, and a shaded area to sit under. Gardening is by consensus between the associations. The ways in which the various societies are using the garden for themselves – and as an opportunity for interactions with others – is an ongoing and growing process.
For ESCA CS volunteers, the garden has provided a place to bond over a love of gardening: every Friday afternoon from March to October, weather permitting, volunteers come to weed, sow, plant, water, and eventually harvest the fruits of their labours.
The Next Step
This year, with the garden becoming more established, we have been able to welcome people who are supported by ESCA CS while dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The physical and mental health benefits of gardening are well known. La Parcelle provides the opportunity for gentle exercise, and spending time with others can help alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness which patients sometimes experience. As an escape from day-to-day worries, being in the garden can lift moods, and bring a sense of peace and calm and hope. Some have joined in with the gardening, enjoying the chance to get their hands dirty, and a natter in the sunshine. Others have simply appreciated the opportunity to sit in the shade and enjoy the peace and quiet; a little bit of company; a slice of homemade cake and a chat; and to spend time watching as the secret garden blooms.