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Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon Garden Writer/Feature Writer West Country

  • Date Joined: 01 Jul 2008

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The Therapeutic Power of Gardens

Posted by Jean Vernon on 08 Jul 2009 at 09:51 PM

Garden lovers don't need to be told that plants, gardens and gardening is therapeutic, it's inherent knowledge in us all. Just a few moments spent in nature lifts energy levels, rejuvenates tired minds and feeds our souls.

 One garden at this year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show takes this concept and uses it as part of its message. 'Hope Begins at Home' has been designed to highlight and support the work of Combat Stress, which helps ex-servicemen and women suffering from Psychological injuries.

The garden was officially opened by Veteran War Correspondent Martin Bell OBE. I asked him what the garden meant to him: " I think it matters a lot, I think we in Britain are only just beginning to understand the sacrifices that we are asking our soldiers to make and the average infantry battalion comes back from a six month tour of duty, with eight, nine, ten dead, sixty injured, some permanently disabled and so many injured in the mind and this is about helping the young men and women with injuries of the mind."

 The garden projects a story of hope and nurture within its calm sapce. Some of the plants have even been grown and cared for by veterans. It is encased with timber sleepers carved with the names of conflicts that have occured since World War I. It's a sobering sight and one that deserves some contemplation from every visitor to the show ground. Combat Stress received 1257 new referrals last year alone, an increase of 66% since 2005. It already cares for 58 veterans who served in Afghanisan and 265 that served in Iraq and has supported over 100 000 psychologically wounded veterans.

The garden was awarded a Silver Flora Medal. 


Dorinda Forbes said:

I find it interesting that the therapeutic powers of gardens/gardening are only really just becoming part of mainstream 'design' thinking.  We design and build gardens for those who suffer from brain injury (amongst other things) and it simply astounds me how often people discount the importance of the outside environment in people's lives.  Professionals (not all by any means) tend to focus on the housing and the gardens are left as an afterthought.  How wrong can people be?  I think that when there is any trauma be it physical (and lets face it physical trauma has a knock on effect mentally and emotionally) or mental those affected become infinitely more sensitive to their surroundings.  And this is not just in a negative way, but also in a positive way.  Noise, colour, tone, touch and smell are not only incredibly evocative (even more so after an accident)but can create additional stress if there is an 'overkill' or equally well soothe and calm.  I have seen so many examples of gardens providing a profoundly healing experience not just because the gardens act as a retreat and sanctuary, but because these very people (our clients) have been involved in creating their gardens and feel valued and empowered as a result.  

on 09 Jul 2009 at 11:02 PM

Jean Vernon said:

Thanks for your input Dorinda. I agree with your thoughts. Gardening is often considered to be a whim or a last resort career and yet it has so much more to offer. True gardeners know the extent of its therapeutic effects. Show me a gardener that doesn't love just 'being' outside. I am sure it is the connection with nature and the gentle energy that pervades our souls as we touch the soil and nurture our plants. All credit to Combat Stress for the part they have played in healing and for showing the masses the important part plants and gardens can play in this process.

on 10 Jul 2009 at 07:53 PM

Dorinda Forbes said:

Thank you Jean.  I must admit to feeling extremely frustrated when I have to deal with architects who have an incredibly arrogant attitude (not all of them I hasten to add) towards gardens.  It is as if they don't matter, and yet they enhance their work and empower their clients (perhaps they have a problem with that!!!)  Did I say that - surely not!

I think that if architects and builders actually realised how important their work was in the disability world they would perhaps approach it differently.  Perhaps it is something to do with the fact they are building something inanimate and therefore imposing their will on a site, rather than working with the landscape and its contents.  I find that because our gardens have, by default, to be incredibly low maintenance because of the cost and therefore care package implications, we have to work far moer with the client and the landscape than we would otherwise.  It is by far and away the most rewarding work I have ever, ever done.

on 11 Jul 2009 at 08:36 AM