We offer horticultural therapy as part of end of life care. Janet Wallis, who organises the gardening sessions, talks about the benefits for patients.

Martlets has provided weekly drop-in horticultural sessions since February 2016, which are open to day patients, family members and those staying with us as in our Inpatient Unit. The group enables everyone, from horticultural novices to seasoned gardeners, to try their hand at planting and nurturing vegetables and flowers in the hospice garden.

We offer low impact activities such as seed sowing and caring for large raised beds. Patients can take the plants or produce home, or to their bedsides.

Our coordinator Laura Bailey sums up the experience:

“It aims to nurture a sense of wellbeing through contact with nature in a safe, enjoyable and inclusive environment. Horticulture is so therapeutic. It’s an opportunity to be sociable and get away from whatever difficulties people may be facing. There’s always a lot of laughter in the sessions.”

Sow and grow benefits

The activities on offer help participants improve their co-ordination, mobility and motor skills; they also walk in the garden, which they might not do at home and the social aspect reduces feelings of loneliness and depression. Sensory stimulation – the touch and scent of plants is really important – and patients tell me this enables them to ‘just be’ in the moment rather than thinking too far ahead. It’s wonderful for patients to be outside in the fresh air listening to birdsong rather than housebound or in a hospice room.

Patients will say that ‘coming here lifts my spirits’ and ‘I can’t manage to go to the other groups but I don’t want to miss this one!’

We see people visibly relaxing during the course of the morning, which is lovely to see. Just feeling the warm soil on their hands helps them feel calm and connected with nature. They’re engaged with what they’re growing, and caring for something provides a sense of purpose. Gardening is a shared experience during which people feel comfortable passing on their own knowledge, and memories of loved ones.

They return the following week and witness the growth and the blooming of nature and the continuing cycle of life.  This is important, as time is precious. We try and plant things that grow quickly, such as like onions, potatoes, beans and sweet peas, so that people can see them development and flourish; this provides a sense of hope, purpose and possibility.

It’s a rewarding cross-generational activity and often children and grandchildren enjoy taking part too.  The shared activities inspire positive memories that the family can cherish of happy times spent together.

Quite simply, Sow & Grow is nature that nurtures!