Photo of Alison


“I’ve become an avid reader of your newsletters and we’re slowly gaining an appreciation of looking after the garden.“ Geoff, Tunbridge Wells, June 2020

Alison Marsden

Gardening by Design is an approach to gardening based on understanding; understanding the needs of my clients, the principles of garden design and how plants grow.  My aim is for you to understand these things too and I can help, advise and teach anyone, from an individual who wants to create and look after their own garden to an organised garden therapy group in a care home, hospice or mental health support charity.

An hour or so of one-to-one advice, in your own garden and tailored to your exact wants and challenges can get you started on a new garden or help you to get the most out of your existing plot without always having to make major design changes.  As well as in-person visits,  I also offer an online consultation for anyone who prefers this and for those too far for me to visit.  I have  blog posts and video tips online to answer those tricky questions or help you with a problem area.

Contact with nature and meaningful nature-based activities such as gardening can be a great support to our mental wellbeing, especially important in times of change.  There are many people getting interested in gardening for the first time and families starting to garden together.  So to help everyone get more success and joy from their garden I have added my longer gardening tutorials to my YouTube channel free of charge: see details Video Tutorials

Happy Gardening from Alison

Why is social and therapeutic horticulture Important?

The evidence is clear from studies across different countries and cultures that access to, and connection with, nature enhances human wellbeing.

Meaningful activities in nature can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, encourage physical activity and increase a general sense of happiness and wellbeing.  But 18% of the UK population spend time in nature less than once a month, some people never.

Gardening is the most accessible, flexible and familiar way for us to connect with nature right outside our own door.

Social and therapeutic horticulture projects bring gardening to people who may not otherwise garden on their own and deliver additional benefits.   Activities are selected and adapted for the needs and capabilities of the participants whether that be building self-confidence or providing cognitive stimulation and always reducing social isolation.

Read more about the studies and benefits of Gardening

Spotlight on a Project

Green Shoots Garden Therapy at the ellenor Hospice

In summer 2017 I was introduced to the Head of Wellbeing at the ellenor Hospice in Gravesend in Kent and we added the Green Shoots group to their day therapy programme.  From then until the March 2020 Covid restrictions put an end to group activities, I facilitated a session once a week all year round with a mixture of learning, practical gardening from sowing seeds to harvesting potatoes and mindful activities such as exploring the shapes, colours and textures of leaves and flowers.

Feedback from the participants identified the benefits they felt including Learning new skills, Working in a group, Getting outside and keeping in touch with nature and Satisfaction from growing plants for everyone to enjoy.  All of these are proven to support good mental health, vital for people living with life-limiting conditions and the potential anxiety, loss of independence and isolation that this can bring.

The autumn 2018 edition of the ellenor hospice magazine highlighted the benefits of the Green Shoots garden therapy group.  Read the article here.

Latest Posts

Climbing roses photo

Summer care for Roses

June must be the month for Roses and many will continue to flower right through until the autumn.  Most gardeners who grow roses know that rose bushes are pruned...