The link between green spaces and human health is widely acknowledged, with increasing calls for ‘therapeutic horticulture’ to be prescribed by health professionals.
A therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.
If you are a patient at the surgery and feel this might help you, please have a word with your GP. Or just pop in on a Thursday at 10am. It’s nearly always tea time.
Established: 2019 by Dr Sheila Hunt as a parting gift to patients.
‘‘Sometimes drugs are not the solution to medical problems that patients bring to GPs and indeed, many issues have a social dimension, such as loneliness and isolation. Sharing in a joint activity such as gardening can have so many benefits.’’ – Dr Sheila Hunt.
Location: 95 Burlington Lane, Chiswick, W4 3ET
Patient Participation Group Meeting Time: Every Thursday at 10am (weather permitted)
Why it started
Initially the garden was a family affair with Sheila’s niece Sophie Walker, now a Chelsea award-winning designer drawing up the plans, and her husband Christopher Richards, an architect recently retired from Barley Mow’s Acanthus and now retrained as a furniture maker carrying out the building work. Everything, including the shed, is curved and hand-built.
Working in a garden offers many benefits. Some of these benefits include connecting with nature, social interaction, and learning new skills.
Depending upon illness or disability, horticulture therapy can help individuals to develop fine motor skills, deeper concentration, stamina, hand-eye coordination and a sense of independence and control. Patients of all skill levels can learn to grow and care for plants, and our garden was designed with our patients in mind.
Our Therapy Garden provides patients with a calm, protected space and a supportive environment, in which you can begin to allow new experiences in,
reconnect with nature and really benefit from the healing power of the garden.
The garden works with people who have chronic health problems or disabilities, and those that haven’t been accessing any other forms of support who may have become
isolated socially. The garden grows edible flowers and vegetables.
Our therapeutic garden can be used for a variety of activities. The garden is primarily used by our patients, where assistance is offered in gardening techniques, such as plant propagation, container gardening, and herb gardening.
Group sessions are run every Thursday by Karen Liebreich from Abundance London and John Gill from the Chiswick Horticultural and Allotment Society.
Patients speak movingly of the benefits they had found from the therapeutic gardening, from healthy eating, physical activity and fighting social isolation and depression. Lashings of tea were mentioned as an important part of the therapy.
What can you do to help?
We’re always keen for more volunteers – we have a minimum of two people supporting each session. We also ask volunteers to commit for six months in order to have some continuity, and to get to know the volunteers and grow to like them.
You could also help out by organising fundraising and profile-raising events for the garden,
or join the Patient Participation Group network to receive a newsletter about the surgery and the garden, and hear of more ways to get involved or help promote the work of the garden.
‘‘For anyone who suffers with mental health or physical problems, or even just isolation and loneliness the therapeutic garden is of huge benefit – even if like myself gardening was never considered as a hobby.
‘‘I think it is important for people to have opportunities to make a contribution. Day centres were the main bridging units to integrate people (including those from hospital) into society, unfortunately all the day centres have closed so a supportive volunteer opportunity like this is much needed.
‘‘Despite feeling very awkward initially having to attend my GP service due to being aware of my health conditions and even though I have never particularly enjoyed gardening – I have surprisingly gained enjoyment from participating. I have been able to do some exercise and it is another avenue to help me leave the house.’’
Dr Hunt also said, ‘‘It was lovely to be given some of the harvest of vegetables and see how the garden has benefited patients.’’