At Pro Landscaper, we have been investigating the link between therapy and horticulture.
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: Robert Myers
Job title: Landscape Architect
- In your opinion, how does horticulture help provide therapy?
We came to understand the importance of gardens and green spaces for wellbeing and recovery in the course of designing our Florence Nightingale Garden – a Celebration of Modern Nursing [https://www.prolandscapermagazine.com/rhs-chelsea-2021-diaries-dan-riddleston-md-bowles-wyer/] at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2021 (which is now relocated at St Thomas’ Hospital). The garden was designed to celebrate the legacy of Florence Nightingale and explore the idea that ‘the shortest road to recovery leads through a garden’. The garden was inspired by Nightingale’s understanding of the healing environment, the importance of ‘restorative’ green spaces and her promotion of ‘nurture through nature’.
- What areas of horticulture work best for therapy?
Florence Nightingale pioneered the introduction of green spaces in hospital settings and understood their importance in the recovery process; green spaces in hospitals were championed as havens for healing.
- Why do you believe that this type of therapy is so important?
Spending time in the natural environment improves our mental health and well-being. It reduces stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression and can combat loneliness by binding communities together. It can help boost immune systems, encourage physical activity and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Do you believe this issue needs to be addressed by the horticultural community? What more do you think could/should be done to address issues with mental health within the industry?
Many psychologists and ecologists are studying nature’s effects on people’s mental health and well-being. People that work in natural environments already experience this benefit, and it’s up to the horticultural industry to really shout about it. We understand how to green the world’s urban spaces the right way and how it can boost human well-being.
- Are there any charities or organisations you would recommend?
The Cart Shed charity works with adults and young people experiencing mental health difficulties or emotional imbalances. Based in north Herefordshire, they use enriching and engaging woodland activities, such as woodcraft, coppice craft, and horticulture, to empower people to self-manage their mental and physical health sustainably.
- What can you add to the garden to enhance privacy and safety?
Hedges can provide privacy as well as creating structure in the garden and a backdrop for looser planting. They also create winter structure and invaluable habitat for insects and birds. Introducing level changes, such as a sunken garden, can also work well in terms of creating an enveloping, immersive space.
- Could you utilise horticulture to provide an outlet for both the creator and the beholder?
Discussions with the client, and problem solving in design, are among the most rewarding aspects of developing the concept and designing the details of any landscape project. Working with plants on site is as rewarding for the designer as the end user!
- When designing a garden, what elements do you include to create a therapeutic atmosphere? Top tip for creating a therapy garden.
There is much scientific evidence that flowing water releases negative ions, boosts mood and relieves stress. Water features can lower your blood pressure and improve physical and mental health as you listen to and observe the world around you. We would introduce a variety of perennial, shrub and tree planting, in layers of textured and calming greens and whites, punctuated by gently circulating pools of water. This planting also provides a ready source of nectar and berries for birds and insects, alongside water tanks, creating a valuable water source for pollinating moths and bees.