The first shoots of success are about to be seen in a garden project that will ensure therapy is provided outside as well as inside a new hospital.
The garden is being developed at the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital which opened last year in Aviemore.
Raised beds, a greenhouse and shed were included as part of the hospital design when it replaced the Ian Charles Hospital in Grantown and St Vincent’s in Kingussie.
Therapeutic horticultural activities
The Badenoch and Strathspey Therapy Gardens charity is about to start its first season on site.
It will add to its green spaces work including at an allotment in Kingussie, day centres and care homes.
The team hopes to create a sensory sitting space in the future for staff, patients, visitors and members of the wider community.
The charity provides social and therapeutic horticultural activities for people with a range of disabilities.
It is also a member of Trellis Scotland, a charity that delivers mental health benefits through gardening projects.
Progress on the hospital project will be discussed at the Trellis seminar series from March 7-11 which will feature therapeutic gardening projects around the world.
Badenoch and Strathspey Therapy Gardens project manager Jen Barrett said: “The hospital area was given to us to develop and it will be a continuation of our existing work.
“We work with people with physical and learning disabilities and we are also trying to encourage along elderly people, those with dementia and people feeling isolated which has been a major problem during Covid.
The importance of social contact
“The social aspect is really important, being amongst others but in a safe way.
“It’s a very communal thing. Everyone gets something out of it.
“People come along to volunteer but can benefit as much from it as those who are advised to come by their doctor.”
The Trellis Scotland online seminars replaced the charity’s annual conference during the pandemic, and opened up its work to a new international audience.
Pre Covid, the live conferences attracted around 150 delegates alongside leading speakers and practitioners.
But last year around 550 participants from five continents took part online.
This year’s event will hear presentations from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Italy, India, Iraq and Sweden as well as more local projects.
Among them will the Alcohol and Drugs Action (ADA) Recovery Garden Project, a therapeutic group in Aberdeen led by volunteers for people in recovery from substance misuse.
It is designed to reduce social isolation and encourage the growing of fresh vegetables to contribute to a healthy diet.
The garden is based in a polytunnel at the city council’s maintenance site at Hazelhead Park.
Gardening can help health and wellbeing
Perth-based Trellis has more than 480 members providing advice and training on how therapeutic gardening can help health and mental wellbeing.
Last year it helped over 12,000 people, including at projects in hospitals, care homes, hospices, schools, prisons and in the wider community.
Fiona Thackeray, head of operations at Trellis, said therapeutic gardening attracted scepticism in the beginning, but there is growing evidence of its benefits.
Interest has also grown since the pandemic when working in gardens and enjoying the outdoors were seen as helping mental health.
She said the Aviemore project has a lot going for it.
She said: “It makes a project more sustainable if it’s seen as part of the community and something that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.
“It multiplies the benefits if people are passing through commenting on how nice it’s looking and the plants you have planted a few months ago are flourishing.
“That appreciation by others can be especially important for people who feel they are care receivers rather than care givers.
“To be seen to be shaping the landscape and giving something to others is really empowering for people dealing with chronic conditions.”