A lit­tle green ban­ishes blues

Did you know that work­ing in a gar­den can help com­bat de­pres­sion, sad­ness or even post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOOD PASTIMES -

In 2007, the char­ity Gar­den­ing Leave was es­tab­lished in Bri­tain for war vet­er­ans with the syn­drome. Its founder, hor­ti­cul­tural ther­a­pist Anna Baker Cresswell, ex­plains how gar­den­ing is ther­a­peu­tic:

“Gar­den­ing jobs have dif­fer­ent ef­fects. Sow­ing seeds or pot­ting up cut­tings, for ex­am­ple, helps with anx­i­ety, as they are both calm­ing and me­thod­i­cal, which means you have con­trol over the task. It is also di­ver­sion­ary, as you have to con­cen­trate. Plant­ing bulbs in con­tain­ers can help peo­ple’s at­ten­tion span, as you can break the ac­tiv­ity down into small, achiev­able tasks. Work­ing side-by-side with peo­ple who have had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences to your own is also ben­e­fi­cial.”

The vet­er­ans – who are never re­ferred to as pa­tients – live at a mental health cen­tre near the ther­a­peu­tic gar­den un­til they feel ready to re­turn to civil­ian life. They grow veg­eta­bles for them­selves, and pot bulbs, bon­sai and indoor plants for sale to gar­den cen­tres.

As a vet­eran ex­plains: “Noth­ing is asked of you. You can do as much as you want, when you want. I’ve been hav­ing a tough time lately, and if I come here it helps me to chill and grounds me. It’s bril­liant.”

Last year, a Help for He­roes show gar­den was de­signed at the Chelsea Flower Show in London to raise aware­ness and fund­ing for a sanc­tu­ary gar­den for war vet­er­ans re­turn­ing from Iraq and Afghanistan with phys­i­cal and mental trauma.

The dam­ag­ing ef­fects of post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der are recog­nised in sol­diers who have served in the Mid­dle East, po­lice­men serv­ing in high-crime ar­eas and even among pris­on­ers.

Whether you call it hor­ti­cul­tural re­train­ing, ther­apy gar­den­ing or a week­end con­tem­plat­ing what might have been, now is the time to spend more time re­con­nect­ing with Mother Na­ture in your gar­den.

PIC­TURE: LUKAS OTTO

CHEERY: Es­tab­lish­ing a veg­etable gar­den such as this one in Fran­schhoek can perk you up.

PIC­TURE: AN­DREA DUR­RHEIM

THUMBS-UP: Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Clifton Peter­son shows that de­sign­ing, plant­ing and de­vel­op­ing a colour­ful gar­den is a good way to raise your spir­its.

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