Help build a directory of Gardens 4 Health
Gardens and Health is a key theme championed by the National Garden Scheme. We recognise the benefits that time spent in a garden – either as a visitors or a gardener – can bring. We fund a number of gardens that provide therapeutic support for patients either in NHS healthcare settings – such as Horatio’s Garden and Maggie’s – or in a community like The Hope Centre in Northampton that provides therapeutic gardening and horticultural training for people with mental health and addiction problems and those who are homeless.
Referring patients to gardening projects is now a key part of Social Prescribing and one GP, Dr Richard Claxton, is aiming to compile a directory of social and therapeutic horticulture to make it easier for GPs to find the right horticultural support for patients. Richard takes up the story:
As a GP, and both a keen gardener and a trainee in Garden Design I have long been aware of the benefits that come from gardening and horticulture for both myself and my own well-being, but more importantly for that of my patients.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the UK lockdown in 2020 saw a rapid growth in the wider use of gardening to maintain mental and physical well-being for many people. Moreover, there has been a steady growth in recent years of organisations across the UK that provide social and therapeutic horticulture for service users.
People living with mental health problems, physical health problems, sensory impairments, learning disabilities, and a range of other problems including loneliness and isolation are all increasingly able to access help, support and camaraderie through these organisations. They also provide huge benefits for those that work for them – often giving their time and expertise on a voluntary basis.
The problem that I encountered as a GP was that I was unaware of what was available in my area. Often I’d come across these organisations in a rather haphazard way – perhaps visiting a garden in the National Garden Scheme or as an affiliate of the Royal Horticultural Society, and only then understanding the role they could offer my patients – either to be service users, or to work as volunteers. I’d often find some amazing charity and blog about it – but was both sad that local GPs were unaware of its existence, and frustrated that the benefits were available to such a small localised population.
So, with Social Prescribing booming – and actively encouraged by the UK Government – there seemed to me to be a lack of coordination and publicising of the available services – either to prescribers like myself, other health or social care workers, or even for members of the public to self-refer to.
Scotland has a brilliant map-based, publicly visible directory on the Trellis website, but there was nothing to cover the remainder of the home nations.
The directory of social and therapeutic horticulture along with its website is my attempt to address this need. I hope that people can use it primarily to find out what services are available in any given locality within the UK. I also hope that the organisations themselves may be able to use it as a means of networking and liaising with like-minded horticulturalists.
The Directory is currently woefully short and incomplete – but growing. This obviously relies on the army of staff, volunteers and members of the public out there letting me know of services that are not included, have changed, relocated or that have ceased to exist so that I can keep it up to date for others. Thank you to all those, including the National Garden Scheme, who have provided information but to make this directory the best it can be for the people who need it most, please visit the site and use the form on the contact page to provide updated information. Thank you.
You can find out more and support the directory here:
Photos: Dr Richard Claxton