Consultancy Case Study - The Willows

The Willows Care Home, Reading

In summer 2014, Thrive finished working on a new garden for dementia patients at the Willows Care Home in Reading.

The project was funded by the Department of Health. Thrive provided expert support to Reading Borough Council throughout the process – from the application stage to designing and delivering the garden and planning therapeutic activities.

Cathy Rickhuss, Thrive’s Research and Consultancy Manager, worked closely with residents and their families, staff at the home, and award-winning garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin.

The garden at the Willows was seriously underused by residents and staff because it offered them very little. Cathy developed a questionnaire for all residents and staff to ensure their needs were understood and that the design incorporated as many things they wanted as possible. The design incorporated areas for both 'active’ and 'passive’ enjoyment with plants to stimulate the senses, a simple layout to aid orientation, and small beds for growing vegetables.


This new garden has already improved our residents’ quality of life. They are now able to properly enjoy the garden, whether it is walking around it, doing easy garden tasks or just sitting and relaxing, and we know they will be safe

– Tina Mabbutt, Care Home Manager

Summary of consultancy services:

  • Consultancy, advice and guidance to assist the design process
  • Creation of a user-involvement questionnaire, analysis and feedback of the results
  • Advice and guidance for the overall maintenance schedule of the new garden project
  • Creation of a 'Gardening with Dementia’ Therapeutic Horticulture programme – including suggested outcomes and a measurement framework


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