Staff member in Cath Lab in scrubsStaff in scrubs in the Cath LabStaff in scrubs in the Cath Lab


Planting the seed for health and wellbeing

Tuesday 02 May 2023

Spending time in garden spaces is important for our health and wellbeing. In hospital settings, gardens provide us with an opportunity to relax, help to reduce stress, and offer a place of respite and retreat for patients, visitors and staff. 

Steven Wells is our Gardens & Grounds Coordinator, and Horticultural Therapist at Austin Health. Steven started work at Austin Health in 1998 and has combined his careers of nursing and horticulture to now be working a combination of roles across his week.  

While Steven primarily manages the gardens and grounds and develops new garden spaces, he also works as a Registered Nurse on the Acquired Brain Injury Unit and as a Horticultural Therapist at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre. He has also been undertaking an intermittent short-term role providing staff wellbeing horticulture sessions. 

"As a passionate gardener and long-term advocate for the therapeutic benefits of gardens, I love my work because I know that it makes a difference. Gardens and gardening provide so much for us - physically, psychologically and emotionally,” says Steven. 

“I get enjoyment from seeing patients, visitors and staff enjoying the garden spaces and hearing of their experiences of using the gardens or attending their horticulture sessions.” 

Steven has been a guest presenter on Gardening Australia, and The Royal Talbot gardens have been featured on several television shows, as well as in a number of magazines and publications. Steven was also awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2015 to travel overseas to research more about the development, use and management of therapeutic gardens in healthcare settings. 

Veterans Gardens vergola at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital

Kate, a former patient at the Royal Talbot, enjoyed spending time in the garden spaces on site.  

“Emotionally, the gardens have been a refuge. A calm place for therapies and visits from family and friends, reconnecting my rehab world and my real world in a supportive and positive way and speeding my recovery,” she says. 

Thanks to community donations and government grant funds, including the Department of Health’s BeWell.BeSafe grant, Austin Health has been able to further develop garden and outdoor respite spaces for patients, visitors, and staff to enjoy.  

“It has been very rewarding to achieve additional garden spaces and seating areas for our staff with these grant funds. It is great to see more staff outside enjoying them, and I’m always encouraging staff to take a moment to enjoy their break outside where they can,” Steven concludes.  

The Friends Sensory Gardens at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre