The therapeutic value of horticulture is now much more widely recognised and promoted. It is of fundamental importance to SWOP to promote the value of horticulture as a therapeutic activity, and, specifically, as a means of rehabilitation for people with mental health problems.
The idea of horticulture as a therapeutic activity is a very ancient one. It was used in the Victorian mental asylums, which were permanent hospitals with large grounds where patients worked and grew food until the 1960s.
Since the 1990 NHS & Community Care Act, people with severe and enduring mental illness are encouraged to live in the community and most of the mental hospitals have closed. Daytime occupation is thus of vital importance to reduce boredom, loneliness and isolation.
‘During the day the patients shall be employed, as much as practicable out of doors, in gardening and husbandry.As a principle in treatment, endeavours shall be continually used to occupy the minds of the patients, and induce them to take exercise in the open air, to promote cheerfulness and happiness among them’ Dorset County Lunatic Asylum 1811
Horticulture as a therapeutic activity is now much more widely recognised and promoted. It is of fundamental importance to SWOP to promote the value of horticulture as a therapeutic activity, and, specifically, as a means of rehabilitation for people with mental health problems.
Horticulture has been, and is more and more, used with every kind of human group, from children to the very old. It is used in different ways and produces different results according to the needs of the group, for example blind or partially sighted gardeners would use it very differently from young people with learning difficulties. However, gardening projects can be created to suit people with every type of disability and need, and open up a huge range of possibilities.
Horticultural projects can have a wonderfully restorative effect on survivors of major trauma: refugees, migrants, the destitute. There are such cultural associations with different plants, and people can be reminded of home by certain tastes and smells.
Indeed sensory gardens are becoming hugely popular, and we are regularly contacted by schools and community groups who want to set them up. Plants are wonderful in this way: sounds, aromas, sensations of touch and taste, the way they attract wildlife, the way a whole new feeling can be created. Plants provide endless fascination, constantly changing, enabling us to renew contact with ourselves and listen to the voice of the earth.
Plants can constantly evoke memories, which is of great benefit to those with memory loss, or unable to communicate their needs. At the same time they can offer something for everyone, whether familiar repetitive tasks or an opportunity for some satisfying hard work. Every plant we grow is an act of creation, an affirmation of hope.
‘We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as wild. Only to the white man was nature a wilderness, and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery’. Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux
People depend on plants for survival, not only for food but for every aspect of their lives, from building their houses to reading and writing. The majority of medicines still come from plants. But plants feed both the body and the soul. They give joy and pleasure to millions, an escape, a release, a return to where we came from. Where there are plants there is life and hope. The world of plants is a world of wonders, of fascination, everything is linked, a web of connections.
Many of our customers say that one of the reasons they like our plants is ‘because they don’t die’; this is partly because they are not mass produced on a conveyor-belt, forced to flower together and to all look the same. It is the same with our people.
Research- Cherry Tree
Our fantastic sister, Cherry Tree Nursery in Northbourne was one of twenty-four participants in 2005 to be part of a major study into the therapeutic nature of horticulture entitled ‘Health, Well-being, and Social Inclusion’. To read all about this fasinating research, please follow the links below: