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Gardening for health and wellbeing.

For National Gardening week, our guest article is written by Rob Hardy, Garden Designer at Rob Hardy & Co.

It’s spring, it’s National Gardening Week, and we’re taking a moment to consider how our gardens and public spaces affect our general health and wellbeing.

Over the last year the restrictions of the pandemic have forced us all to spend increasing amounts of time outdoors, meeting up with friends and family in parks and gardens. At first this was out of necessity, but over time it seems like we really have fallen in love again with our gardens. Nurseries and Garden centres are reporting that they are busier than ever, and at Rob Hardy & Co we have designed more gardens this year than ever before. 

During such a testing year, what can be better than getting outdoors and spending some time in our little patch of earth?

More than hearsay

Gardeners have been extolling the virtues of our public and private gardens for years, but now scientists are backing this up with some incredible evidence. Did you know, for instance, that when we get our hands dirty in the soil, we absorb the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae through our skin? This bacterium stimulates serotonin, also known as the happy hormone, making us more relaxed and generally happier!

At one with nature

But you don’t need to get elbow deep in soil to get the benefit. It has long been recognised that being in nature can have a restorative effect on us all; listening to the wind in the trees, seeing the sunlight playing through the leaves, smelling the soil after rain; all these things give us a sense of calm and wellbeing. This is known as Biophilia – the love of nature and living things. In Japan they practice an activity called shinrin-yoku, which simply translates as forest bathing. This is simply spending time amongst trees, allowing ourselves to disconnect from our hectic world and slow down. An afternoon in the woods can have a relaxing effect, bringing us into the present and allowing us to de-stress. There is even talk of this being prescribed by our GPs in the near future.

Growing plants and caring for our gardens can give us a real sense of accomplishment too. Looking back and seeing what we have achieved in our gardens, even if that’s just mowing and edging the lawn, can give us a deep satisfaction. For those of us who have a flower bed or perhaps a little veg plot, there’s nothing better than seeing the flowers that you have cared for and nurtured begin to bloom or picking that homegrown veg and seeing it on your plate; that sense of achievement never goes away!

The green gym

With our local gyms being closed for much of the last year, many of us have been looking elsewhere for our exercise. You may be surprised to hear about the physical benefits of gardening too. Working in a garden can be more physically demanding that we might imagine. Spending a lazy Sunday afternoon tending to our plants, cutting the hedges, or mowing the lawn can give us an unexpectedly good cardiovascular workout, building the muscles and burning calories too.

Working together

Now that we can spend time with friends and family in our garden, why not group together to tackle those bigger jobs? Gardening can be a lovely activity to do with others. It makes those bigger jobs easier to accomplish, whilst staying socially distanced at the same time, of course!

Sensory Gardens 

Sensory Gardens provide unique and stimulating spaces, created with the client and their needs at the very heart of the design process. Sensory Gardens are known to have many health and wellbeing benefits for people living with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and neurological conditions, and use a combination of plants, flowers, and equipment to stimulate senses, improve physical health and emotional wellbeing. 

On a previous project in Cheshire, we worked with France+Associates to create a sensory garden that had practical and therapeutic qualities to meet the specific needs of the young client.

Here are some other ideas for you to try out in your garden:

• Set your alarm early one morning and take a cup of tea out into the garden to hear the dawn chorus. Without the background traffic noise, the birdsong is incredibly beautiful.

• Start a gardening club with your neighbours; share tips and advice and perhaps take a few cuttings from each another’s plants to try growing them in your own garden.  

• Leave your mobile phone at home and spend an afternoon in a local woodland. You don't need to follow a set path, just take time to appreciate what's around you; the birds in the trees, the light glinting through the branches, the rustle of leaves underfoot.

• Volunteer with a local community group. There are lots of local groups that give their time to support local parks and gardens.  This could be littler picking, or planting spring bulbs or clearing out an overgrown stream, for example.

• Buy some simple veg seeds or ready-grown plug plants from your local garden centre and try growing them in a spare patch of ground. If you don’t have much space, why not try growing some herbs in a window box or on the window sill?

• Try taking some artistic photographs of the plants and animals in your garden. This can be a relaxing activity and allows you to focus on the little details in your garden. You’ll be amazed at how soon you forget about those stresses of everyday life.

For more information, contact us on
01484 960560 or email us +

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