Gardening 4 Health

Pleased to launch this site today.

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 COVID19 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 in 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.

This 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.

NGS Annual Lecture – 11.11.20

Tom & Sue Stuart Smith – Gardens are for people

I really enjoyed watching this lecture .

An extraordinary couple with a wealth of knowledge reflecting on their careers both in Garden Design, and Psychiatry respectively. Sue has recently published her fabulous book – The Well Gardened Mind.

The net effect was a comprehensive review of the importance of gardens in people’s lives – especially recent projects on Municipal and Hospital gardens, and a focus on Social and Therapeutic Horticulture.

Volunteering at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens – 7th November 2020

My first shift as a Delos Garden guide and Interpreter.

I’m excited to be joining the team as a weekend Guide in the revamped Delos garden.

This Mediterranean garden has recently been brought back to life by Dan Pearson and Troy Scott-Smith.

It’s taking time for the planting to naturalise, and in the context of the rest of this iconic English country garden it has courted controversy. But each time I’ve seen the garden it’s seemed more at ease in its space. I like it more and more.

Vita and Harold’s first attempt at recreating a Greek Island garden in 1937 was thwarted by the unsuitability of their heavy Kentish clay, a North facing slope, and the impact of World War Two and recruitment of able-bodied gardeners to the forces.

So for its rebirth a huge amount of work was done improving the drainage, and building terraces to better harvest the sunlight.

Sarah Raven’s Gardens at Perch Hill – Open Day 18.7.20

Lovely to visit @sarahravenperchhill garden open day yesterday.

Gorgeous sunny afternoon showed the garden at its best.

Highlights included the amazing cutting gardens, the beautiful cool Oast courtyard with towering fig and wonderfully scented Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) along with a stunning Hydrangea arborescens “incrediball”.

A wonderful glasshouse bursting with produce sits above a cleverly laid out kitchen garden with raised beds capitalising on the sunny steep south-facing slope.

A multitude of insects and wildlife testament to the work done here on Biodiversity, including a rare siting if a Hummingbird hawkmoth, and a lush meadow enveloping a steamer chair.


Seeds and useful tools, vases, planters, books etc all on sale at the socially distanced shop.

Well worth a visit if you can.

Visit to The Mount – NGS – 12.7.20

If you’re up for a restoration project – The Mount – today’s @nationalgardenscheme garden – is an inspiration.

Mrs Claxton’s favourite garden so far – in a rural backwater of Rochester – a stunning Georgian house with beautiful gardens is truly wonderful.

For me the highlights were the restored kitchen garden, hothouses, beautiful shaded meadow planting, a pond with the perfect waterlily flower, and a stunning white and yellow border- punctuated by yew hedge bookends.

Imaginative ground cover with creeping Thyme and a mown labyrinth for small scale charm, contrasted with a magnificent ancient Cedar towering over the summerhouse.

Lots of ideas to think about here: Lonicera nitida giving a neatly clipped alternative to yew or box hedges, raised asparagus beds for those of us with lumbago.

Refreshments taken in the kitchen garden included home-made cheese muffins and elderflower cordial. What more could you ask for?

Visit to Lindengate – 11.7.20

On an old allotment site by a garden centre near Amersham is an extraordinary garden.

Founded in 2012 the @lindengate charity occupies a five acre site and is open this weekend as part of the @nationalgardenscheme

Its groundbreaking purpose is to provide a therapeutic sanctuary to people with mental health problems. People with problems such as Depression or Anxiety, Dementia, Learning disabilities, Head Injuries, Autistic Spectrum Disorders or even loneliness can be referred formally, or can self-refer.

They are the Gardeners, and are supported by an amazing team of dedicated Staff and Volunteers.

Typical sessions run for three hours and can be either short or long term depending on their needs.

Through “Social and therapeutic horticulture” Gardeners gain in so many ways. A nurturing environment where they can learn new skills, including crafts, carpentry, cooking as well as the gardening and garden planning.

Co-founder Charlie Powell has collected evidence in terms of not just improvements of depression, anxiety or dementia symptoms, but also self-esteem, confidence and a sense of belonging. Of course there’s also the benefit of physical activity and fresh air.

She told me that whilst Gardeners can come and get involved with planned activities, it’s also important for them to know it’s OK if they just want to sit in peace and quiet.

There’s a strong emphasis on Biodiversity and the ecology of the site is taken very seriously. This integration with the garden’s environment is clearly mirrored in the Gardeners’ integration with society.

Currently Charlie’s main concern is how to get back up and running in a safe way after lockdown; taking all the precautions needed for Staff, Volunteers and Gardeners’ wellbeing.

I know of nowhere quite like it in the UK. Visit if you can or donate.

Online Lecture – Felix Garrett – Biodiversity at Dixter – 27.6.20

Fascinating zoom lecture by Felix Garrett on the processes they’ve taken at Dixter – based on original theories by Christopher & Daisy Lloyd – to enhance and merge biodiversity with the local ecology.

A meticulously detailed biodiversity audit was carried out and multiple rare species identified.

This biodiverse approach enhances both the philosophy and sustainability of the garden – but also the naturalistic look which visitors to Dixter are so fond of. Everything matters – from spiders to slugs – flora and fauna an all the way up the food chain.

As a result we plan to recommit to the organic methods – wherever possible – and also to bring some further meadow areas into the Mill House garden from the paddock where it’s so extensive into the main garden’s shady areas.

Visit to NGS Garden Nettlestead Place – 5.7.20

Lovely visit on a windy but dry day to this garden near Yalding. An ancient priory surrounded by amazing borders – spectacular lavender & herbaceous borders. Highlights included the Dierama – Echinops – Salvias all looking at their best.

Meadows and bamboo walk – mature specimen trees – oriental hill garden and a maze with beech walk and a tennis court. Multitude of sculptures throughout. 2 Visits in 1 day.

Visit to NGS Garden Goddards Green – 5.7.20

First visit of the day to Goddards Green in Cranbrook. Beautiful ancient house with outbuildings – home of one of the original Cranbook clothiers – now lovingly looked after by the Wotton family.

Rhill stemming from modern pyramidal fountain with echoes in the triangular aperture in yew hedging – with formal paved garden below and Dierama around a well swaying in the breeze. Erigeron everywhere. Deep secluded duckpond with jetty and sculpture. Also an amazing meadow with meticulously logged tree planting in a new pinetum. Honeybee hives. Modest Kitchen Garden. Swimming pool with Mediterranean themes planting around and a gorgeous hammock surrounded by lushgrasses. Huge platters of succulents & paddle plants. Magnolia lawn and more conservative planting in the borders.

Visit to Sissinghurst 3.7.20

At last our tickets came up for the post-Lockdown Sissinghurst gardens. Gorgeous as ever. The white garden looking slightly past its best.But still lovely – in particular the white verbascum – cow parsley and roses.

The new Delos garden – Greek style arid planting. Slightly out of place here with faux Greek ruins. But clearly experimental and the way of things to come in the South East with Climate change.

The gorgeous orchards meadow woodland and apothecaries gardens as always. My favourite with lush borders the Rose garden – with spectacular figs at one end and a gorgeous clematis surrounding a Lutyens bench at the end. Good to be back.