RHS ‘Feel Good’ garden to benefit NHS

As part of its plans to celebrate its 70th birthday, the NHS and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have joined forces to promote how gardening, gardens and green spaces are good for health, happiness and general wellbeing.

The collaboration will consist of a competition to relocate a 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden, The RHS Feel Good Garden, designed by Matt Keightley, to one of England’s NHS mental health trusts.

The garden is being designed by Matt as a contemporary and therapeutic space which focusses on health and wellbeing and aims, alongside the collaboration, to raise awareness of the positive impact that horticulture has on mental health.

NHS mental health trusts in England are now being invited to enter a competition to win the Garden, which Matt will redesign to best suit the space and needs of the Trust and provide a place where staff and patients can garden, relax and be close to nature.

The aim is to raise awareness of the positive impact that horticulture has on mental health and to promote how gardens can provide relaxing and rehabilitative spaces. This will include RHS providing advice and tool kits for use by NHS organisations and staff. There are gardens and green spaces in NHS settings, but it is hoped the RHS’ Garden will help to further promote the benefits of gardening and green spaces to the health and well-being of the nation in the year that the NHS turns 70.

Writer, broadcaster, gardener and farmer, Monty Don said: “I know from personal experience how gardening helps heal many mental and physical ills.  When you are sad a garden comforts. When you are humiliated or defeated a garden consoles. When you are consumed by anxiety it will soothe you and when the world is a dark and bleak place it shines a light to guide you on.”

RHS Director General Sue Biggs says: “The NHS working with the RHS gives substantial credence to the impact that gardening and getting close to nature can have on our health and happiness.
“There is nothing quite like gardening to help your mind to simply think about the task in hand, be it weeding, pruning or planting.  Gardeners have known about mindfulness for generations and with increased pressures through things like social media, now more than ever we need to get outside moving and loving nature to calm us, get exercise and be kind to ourselves.”

Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director for mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement points out that over the last seven decades the approach to mental health issues both as a society and in the NHS has transformed beyond all recognition: “We know that there are many ways to offer care for certain patients that are worth trying either in place of drugs or alongside them,” he says. “Gardening provides physical exercise and can foster social connections making it an effective way that can potentially help people who are suffering with mental illness, are depressed or stressed. This incredible gift by the RHS of this fantastic garden will be an early birthday present for one of our mental health trusts, their patients and staff,” he added.