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  • Edward Bowring

So what is Horticultural Therapy?

Put simply it is using gardening to help someone through promoting their health, well-being and social inclusion.

Thrive, The UK's leading charity changing lives through horticulture, describes social and therapeutic horticulture as "the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as communication and thinking skills."

From a personal perspective, as a horticultural therapist it is no wonder that I find my calm and solace pottering about in my garden. I can escape the disinfectant aroma of hospitals and medical treatment that an arthritis diagnosis brings or the sea of nappies and sleepless nights my gorgeous children produce to the tasks of deadheading knowing it will produce more flowers, sowing seeds trusting more life will come and picking the last of the kale and leeks that my toddler might actually dare to eat. It provides a deep sense of accomplishment, but more importantly hope and encourages me focus on the future even if this is only a matter of days or weeks away.

Using horticulture therapeutically has been around globally for centuries and the rehabilitative use of agricultural and gardening activities in mental health inpatient settings has been well documented since the 1800's. But it wasn't until after WW2 that horticultural therapy really took off as part of rehabilitation for veterans.

So how can it help one? Well, the benefits can promote physical, mental, social and emotional health. From reducing stress and decreasing anxiety to increasing self-esteem, self worth and social interaction to promoting healthy eating as demonstrated by Garden Organic and Sustain. For the full list of potential benefits see the American Horticultural Therapy Association

HT is used with people experiencing a number of differing conditions affecting either their mental or physical health or both. In the UK there are programs that offer HT as part of the rehabilitative process for those experiencing dementia, stroke and learning difficulties to those with neuro-musculoskeletal issues at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and even substance misuse issues in prisons

What does The Chichester Gardener offer?

We run sessions in community gardens for

those affected by a myriad of conditions such as dementia, mental health and those affected by social isolation. But also offer these sessions to care homes, schools and on a one-to-one basis in one's own private home or garden.

Perhaps you know a friend who once loved gardening but can now no longer continue due to ill health or just needs the gentle encouragement of someone gardening along side them who understand their condition and it's challenges to get them outdoors again and enjoy all the benefits this brings. Whatever the scenario do contact us if you live in West Sussex/East Hampshire, or Thrive, or Trellis for more info and if further afield.

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