Green Shoots Garden Therapy at the ellenor HospiceAlison Marsden
It is hard to enter the ellenor hospice in Gravesend without noticing the lovely garden, visible through the building and from many of the rooms and offices. What may be less obvious is the contribution the garden makes to the patients, families, visitors, staff and volunteers who make the ellenor the place that it is. Just ten minutes of quiet time sitting in a garden, park or woodland reduces general levels of stress and a recent UK study linked increased wellbeing and happiness to spending two hours a week outside in a green environment. Maintained by the ellenor’s gardener and team of dedicated volunteers the garden offers space for contemplation, a play area for children, and tables and chairs for eating or meeting al fresco. For patients unable to get outside, rooms with windows overlooking the garden maintain a connection to nature.
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 gardening 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