Gardening is the best medicine
Canterbury garden

Mark Hughes tells us how getting green fingered has helped him in the face of the toughest diagnosis.

Every gardener knows the immense feeling of satisfaction tending a plot and seeing the beauty of nature close up. And none more so than Mark Hughes.

For 19 years Mark, from Southend-on-Sea, has been living with cancer and in recent years received the news that his bone cancer is now terminal. But determined to live a normal life and keep his spirits up, Mark has thrown himself into gardening which he says has brought him great comfort and acted as a kind of therapy.

“My grandfather was a great gardener as was my mum so the genes are there but it was after the diagnosis and when I couldn’t work anymore that I decided to try gardening to stop myself getting bored,” says Mark, 58. “I’m not one of those gardeners that knows the names of all the flowers but I love getting out there as the time just seems to fly by. You can’t think about anything else except what you’re doing and you certainly can’t think about cancer.”

For Mark, gardening has also proved a lovely way to spend time with his wife as well as keeping fit. “Me and my wife always have a laugh when we’re gardening – even if it’s because she’s dug up the bulbs I’ve just planted thinking they’re weeds,” he laughs. “It’s nice for us to do this together and while there will come a day when I can’t do as much, for now this keeps me mentally and physically active.”

As well as gardening, Mark has also been both a volunteer and an ambassador for Marie Curie over the years, often speaking up on issues around terminal illness care or fronting campaigns to show there can be life after diagnosis.

He even won the The Sun’s Unsung Hero award after being nominated by mountaineer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who previously climbed Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains in south Russia in Mark’s honour.

“My attitude is that I’m too busy to die and while I’m here I want to do what I can to help others and show people there are things they can do to make life after diagnosis a happy time, whether that’s by gardening or another hobby.”

About the National Garden Scheme

  • Every year, the National Garden Scheme helps people discover over 3,500 breathtakingly beautiful private gardens in England and Wales that are normally closed off to the public. As well as helping people enjoy the best gardens in their area, thanks to the generosity of garden owners the scheme also raises millions of pounds for nursing and health charities. The National Garden Scheme is Marie Curie’s single largest donor and has donated an incredible £500,000 this year.

  • To find out more about how to support and enjoy the National Garden Scheme visit

Sign up for the Yours Peak District Trek on Sept 21 to raise funds for Marie Curie at