EVER thought how much a garden might be able to help a loved one suffering from mental health problems, whether it’s an elderly relative showing signs of dementia or a traumatised child?
Former city finance worker Faith Ramsay, new chair of trustees at horticulture therapy charity Thrive (thrive.org.uk), left her lucrative job to re-train as a garden designer and in the process alleviated her own bouts of depression.
She explains: “Thrive therapists use horticulture to achieve a therapeutic outcome. Different plants help alleviate different problems.”
Here, she offers tips on plants to include in therapeutic garden schemes:
Faith says: “It’s calming, balances the senses and has a sedative quality which can aid sleep. Being surrounded by lavender and the natural smell of it is very good.
“If you’ve had an emotionally traumatic moment, lavender is subliminally very calming.”
“Helps memory and is good for dementia settings,” she says. “It’s a stimulating plant for dealing with feeling low and needing a boost. I wouldn’t have lavender and rosemary cheek by jowl. There needs to be space for calming and space for being uplifted. “
EARLY SPRINGFLOWERING BULBS
“For many people, mental health problems, [such as SAD], are worse in the winter. Choose an early spring-flowering bulb for a sense of optimism, to give the message that life goes on and positive things are coming.
“Iris reticulata come out in February in lovely blues and purples, when the weather is grey and you are feeling rock-bottom. They could be grown by someone who only has a balcony and they flower when nothing else is out.” “Particularly good for children with mental capacity issues because they can touch and grab and smell and interact with it. If you are constantly being told not to touch or poke things, suddenly being able to do that is very empowering.”
“If you are dealing with an elderly person, maybe someone who is starting to suffer from dementia, include plants which were around during their childhood, like pinks, which are very aromatic, or sweet peas, because those memories are lost last. These aromatic, old-fashioned plants may strike a chord with people in their seventies and eighties, which echo something from their childhood.”
“Put sweet peas around a wigwam with pinks underneath it. As a form of horticultural therapy for dementia, Thrive would encourage the patient to plant sweet peas. They are easy seeds to handle.
“Being able to grow plants is an important part of therapy. Grow from seed in pots or buy seedlings from a garden centre. It will give a sense of achievement.”
“Plants that need a lot of TLC such as roses and peonies. If you’ve forgotten to stake your peony and it’s collapsed, it can make you feel less positive. I would include hardy geraniums, penstemons, iris bulbs, daffodils, lavender and rosemary, which won’t need persistent care.”