A survey by the National Trust showed that 70% of the population think that spending time in their gardens is important for their quality of life. Certainly, it seems, horticultural therapy is widely being accepted as an aid for people with many differing needs. A book edited by Simpson and Strauss discusses the healing potential of horticultural therapy as used by health professionals for a wide range of problems - physical disabilities, brain injuries, mental health issues.
Last year I visited a project in Southampton, The Mayfield Nursery, which offers a working environment for people suffering mental health problems. They raise and supply a good range of plants for sale, and also have special events throughout the year.
The Minstead Training Project is part of a charitable organisation which provides horticultural training and residential care for young people with learning difficulties at Furzey Gardens. The project offers training in work and social skills through horticulture.
The Normandy Community Therapy Garden aims to “share the joy of practical horticulture with people of all ages especially those who have any form of disability or learning difficulty.” They are a small charity, serving the areas of Guildford, Mytchett, Farnborough, Camberley, Woking, Farnham and Godalming.
Thrive is a charity which champions the use of gardening to change the lives of people with disabilities, whether rebuilding a person’s strength after an accident or illness, or providing a purpose for people coping with difficulty in their lives. They have one project in Reading, Berkshire, and one in Battersea Park, London, as well as supporting around 900 other gardening projects around the country. Thrive has launched its Green Circle project in Hampshire, which raises awareness of the importance of older people being able to continue gardening, and provides information and advice on how they can do this.
If you’re interest in colour therapy in the garden try here where Jill Crooks gives some design advice for creating moods through colour – exciting the senses, inspiring your day, creating tranquillity, brightening shady corners, symbolism of colour. She cites Gay Search’s book “The Healing Garden” (BBC Books, 2001).
The Institute of Horticulture Newsletter November 2009 gives details of some research by Plants for People showing that planting in any setting can increase happiness and decrease stress, as well as creating a fresher environment in which to live, suggesting that businesses as well as homes can benefit from interior landscaping, with employees becoming more productive and less likely to be absent through minor illness when plants are present in the office. Some of the earliest work on the use of plants for improving indoor environments was done by NASA back in the 80s, by the way.
Thank goodness the importance of gardens (and the activity of gardening) to our own health and well-being, as well as that of the wildlife that we share them with, is becoming more widely understood.