I am Alison Marsden, founder of Gardening by Design and a believer that all gardening should be a source of joy and fufilment. After providing gardening advice face to face and online to householders and gardening clubs for over 10 years I now specialise in the power of gardening to support our mental wellbeing and play a part in the personal recovery of mental health service users.
Since 2016 I have been running social and therapeutic horticulture sessions for groups including residents in care homes, hospice day therapy and Dementia Cafés. I provide consultancy and training for organisations wishing to create their own therapeutic gardening programme.
Whether on the horticultural or mental health side success comes from blending an understanding of the science with practical experience and focus on the needs of the individual. I always (try to) explain the Why as well as the How of any activity I recommend.
Why Work With Me?
The corporate IT world, gardening and teaching might seem odd bedfellows for a career, but they have all contributed skills to my progression into therapeutic horticulture. I have been a keen gardener at home all my adult life and always with a strong emphasis on actively supporting the wildlife with which we share our gardens.
My formal gardening education started over 20 years ago while I was still working as a project manager with a large corporation. I first studied for the Royal Horticultural Society’s General Certificate and followed this with a garden design course. Between 2010-12, I passed two RHS Level 3 Theory Certificates and qualified as an adult education tutor.
I taught adult leisure gardening courses for Kent Adult Education for 11 years and I continue to run theory and hands on gardening sessions for the Self-Organised Learning programme emphasising that your garden should work for you and not the other way round!
In 2016 I studied for the undergraduate Award in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture with the charity Thrive, in association with Coventry University and grew my project experience working with organisations including West Kent Mind and Headway East Kent.
I am now two years into a part-time MSc in Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion, studying online at the University of Hertfordshire, with just the research project to go in 2023-4. Without a background in health, the MSc has already transformed my understanding of mental health and the recovery approach that underpins my work in the STH field.
Along the way I completed Mental Health First Aid training with MFHA England and my CPCAB Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills. Both these provide practical skills to work more confidently and sensitively with potentially vulnerable adults, reinforcing ethics and the need to work within boundaries, guiding individuals to further support where appropriate.
What My Clients Say
“Alison’s sessions with our residents are always valued by those that attend them. Her knowledge of gardening is evident and really bring her sessions to life. She is calm and patient; waiting for the residents to do things themselves rather than doing it for them but giving them the guidance, they need.” Residential Home for those living with dementia.
I have been the regular gardening columnist in a West Kent monthly magazine, The Town Crier, for 9 years. You can find all my articles on my Blog.
Join me on social media for posts and tweets on all things gardening and on my GardeningbyDesignUK YouTube channel for seasonal gardening quick video tips.