For some people, gardening is an activity to do peacefully and alone. But, it can also be an activity enjoyed within a community.
At community gardens and allotments, for example, there is the opportunity to work as part of a team. Sharing responsibility can bring people together and boost self-esteem.
Research shows how effective gardening can be at reducing loneliness and isolation. The NHS created the Better Health: Every Mind Matters campaign. They recommend joining groups or doing something you enjoy as a way to boost your mood. For example, spending time outdoors in a green space.
(Gardening’s) helped me be more adventurous. I'm more able to talk to people and make new friendshipsCamilla, client gardener at Thrive
We see the social benefits of gardening firsthand at Thrive when we run our projects. We surveyed one group of more than 300 people aged over-50 following a particular project. Results showed:
There are different ways you could choose to connect to others through gardening.
Gardeners are generally thought of as friendly, helpful people. You could start by asking friends and neighbours for advice. Or, you could do a plant swap . You could also help each other with bigger tasks like making new beds and borders.
If you like the idea of gardening as a group, you could join a local gardening group or community garden / allotment. This is also a great way to learn from others.
Some resources for finding groups include:
If you'd like to find out more about projects at Thrive, contact us. If we can't help via our regional centres, we will try to connect you with other providers across the country.
On the 27 April 2017, the day after his 56th birthday, life changed for Nicholas Barley in a matter of seconds.
In the middle of an AA meeting, he realised he couldn’t move. “Someone grabbed hold of me, so I didn’t fall over and then said I'd had a stroke," says Nicholas. "It was out of the blue and horrible.”
An ambulance arrived quickly. Within 45 minutes, Nicholas was getting treatment at a specialist stroke hospital. That speedy response probably saved his life.
Nicholas can’t remember much about what happened next. He recalls lying in bed, unable to eat, speak or walk. He could, however, hear a consultant telling his daughter and a close friend that there was no hope.
"I thought no way, we’ll see what happens mate!" says Nicholas. His determination to get better set him on the path towards partial recovery.
After a lengthy stint in rehab, Nicholas could speak and walk with some limitations. He was still unable to use his right arm, though. He received help from the Stroke Association. They told him about Thrive and Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH).
Socially, Nicholas wasn’t in a good place. Depression had always been a problem and the stroke had also affected his confidence.
There is a huge community here … Mentally it is a continual challenge, but I wouldn’t stop it, no way. I’ve made very good friends here.Nicholas, client gardener at Thrive
Encouragement to join in
Nicholas took part in a 12-week stroke programme at Thrive Battersea Park. The specialized programme used gardening to support rehabilitation. The variety of tasks were designed to improve fine motor skills, build dexterity and strengthen limbs.
“Initially coming here was scary and really hard work because I was very withdrawn,” comments Nicholas. “But the lady that ran the course didn’t place any expectations on me which was great.”
The continued encouragement of fellow gardeners, staff and volunteers made a real difference. It helped Nicholas become more involved with the group.
“They’ve helped me a massive amount. There is a huge community here, people in the office and in the groups have been great,” says Nicholas.
Hard work pays off
Nicholas now volunteers at Thrive once a week, selling plants to the public. He enjoys talking to Battersea Park’s visitors and sharing his plant knowledge.
He is very positive about how gardening has helped him. “I rate the work of the staff here very highly because of their skills," he says. "To get a person to open up and talk is pretty massive. Everyone is here to help.”
“The hard work has paid off. I don’t notice it as much as other people who say ‘Nicholas, look how far you have come’. Mentally it is a continual challenge, but I wouldn’t stop it, no way. I’ve made very good friends here so I’m a happy customer.”
Turning the neglected library garden at Oundle into a flourishing community space has transformed its use.
In this article, Clare shares the journey and how it brings joy to many.
Are you using gardening to help support others? You may be interested in our courses and workshops. These range in level from those starting out in STH to experienced practitioners.