As the House of Lords’ Horticultural sector have recently opened an inquiry and subsequent report into the future of horticulture, just one of the many questions being investigated by the twelve committee members explores the affiliation between horticulture and mental health.
This inquiry will also consider the challenges, opportunities and risks faced by the horticultural sector acknowledging the potentially isolating nature of horticultural work and the bearing this can have on a professionals’ mental health, while also recognising the therapeutic opportunities that gardening can offer everyone.
At Pro Landscaper, we wanted to investigate further. Speaking with a few key members of the community and getting their opinions and perspectives on how horticulture could be contributing to the nation’s mental health, and how the industry could take this further.
Name: Rachel Platt
Job title: Garden designer and RHS Young Designer of the Year 2022
- In your opinion, how does horticulture help provide therapy?
Horticulture acts as an escape, and a distraction from what’s going on in the world, in terms of therapy for mental health but also for physical wellbeing. In the creation of the “Covid Recovery Garden” (RHS Tatton Park 2022), they were teaching people to regain confidence in themselves, by using their hands, creating, and learning.
- What areas of horticulture work best for therapy?
Any anything related to gardening in the form of like getting your hands dirty, getting stuck into nature, and really experiencing your surroundings. It’s free to sit outside, go for a walk, find a park. Any time spent in nature is a great thing.
- Do you believe this issue needs to be addressed by the horticultural community?
As an industry, we’re aware of it but we can definitely do more to encourage community groups and community centres to set up their own support groups. Encouraging the government to utilize nature as a form of therapy.
- Are there any charities or organisations you would recommend?
I work with a brain and spine rehabilitation clinic in Buckinghamshire using horticulture and gardening as a kind of the maintenance for physical and mental health. The therapy side has been amazing, it’s great to see the rehabilitation first hand.
- What can you add to the garden to enhance privacy and safety?
Trees are always a great choice. Probably also hedging but it’s that kind of greenery that gives you overhead and side privacy, not too exposing, not too restrictive.
- Could you utilise horticulture to provide an outlet for both the creator and the beholder?
The client is obviously the most important thing, and it’s important to ensure that they’ve got the garden they want, and they have the escapism they need. For the creator, resonate with the design and the process of creating. And it’s that creative process that gives you therapy, when you’re doing your drawings, colouring in – imagining the space coming to life. It’s the process of it.
- When designing a garden, what elements do you include to create a therapeutic atmosphere?
I think sound is important. So that could be water, or it could be grasses blowing in the wind. Secondly is smell. So having sweet smelling plants in the garden is always lovely. And thirdly, definitely privacy. I think those three things are crucial.
Then I would suggest seating as well. You need to have somewhere to sit and actually enjoy what the garden is providing.
And when designing, look at how the elements react in the space – you should feel immersed in the garden.
Be able to just walk into it and close your eyes. Hear things, smell things, and explore therapy through sensations, relaxation, and escapism.