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Alex Bailey has been Thrive Birmingham's Client and Garden Manager since spring 2017. Here she explains her role and how she entered the world of therapeutic horticulture.

What is your background?

After studying visual communications at university, I worked as a graphic designer and art director, previously employed in design and advertising agencies.

Why did you get involved in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture?

I love gardening and working with our clients, volunteers and staff. I didn’t know about the work that Thrive was doing in Birmingham until I spotted information in King’s Heath Park. I knew that working in the garden with plants was very therapeutic but hadn’t realised what a difference Social and Therapeutic Horticulture sessions could make to people.

TV gardens Birmingham social

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love many aspects to my job. I really like working with our range of client gardeners and students and seeing the joy they have being outside in the fresh air. I love sharing gardening knowledge and learning new skills and information. I love the smiles, laughs and conversations we have with clients and volunteers, plus the teamwork I have with the other Thrive staff.

I also love the seeing the garden develop throughout the year – the mature garden tucked up in snow in winter, the bulbs popping up in spring, the new flower buds unfurling and bursting open and the autumn colours of the trees.

Shrub path

What does a typical working day look like?

My day is very varied. I try and fit as much as I can into the day. I usually start by checking all my emails and then going and checking the gardens. Some days I might be delivering a therapy session and get to spend most of the day in the gardens. I make plans for the next week, month or season, create lists of jobs, do paperwork and get my hands dirty in the garden!

Describe some of the needs of client gardeners you work with

We have a range of client gardeners with differing needs and we try and support them to achieve their aims. This maybe helping them improve their standing stamina by working at an adjusted height raised bed, their communication through the chatting and sharing task information, their fine motor skills with seed sowing, gross motor skills with weeding whilst on a kneeling stool or making gardening more accessible with tool aids and assistance.

Greenhouse fun

In what ways does your work help client gardeners?

I work with client gardeners and set the activities they will do. I also do a lot of planning with the other practitioners about how the Grow and Learn students can achieve their qualifications and how other groups operate. I order the gardening materials and tools that help us deliver to clients and keep the gardening looking beautiful.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Seeing smiles. Whether that be on someone’s face when they are working, chatting, learning something new or at the end of the session.

And what is the least favourite part of the role?

Running out of time to finish a job or cleaning the toilets!

Flowers in Birmingham Gardens

What’s your favourite part of the Thrive Birmingham gardens and the activity you enjoy most?

I have lots of areas of the gardens that I enjoy but especially love the serenity of the mature garden and the rose garden when it is in full bloom and scent. I love to clear up and weed areas so you can really see a difference afterwards.

What skills and attributes do you feel are key to the job?

Teamwork, good communication, hard work, being resourceful, adaptable, flexible and probably a little bit bossy!

In your opinion, why is Thrive important to client gardeners?

I think client gardeners like to see and feel the seasons and the changes they bring. They like to see what they have done, whether that be nurture a seedling, plant a row of cabbages beautifully or mulch a border.

Being able to come to a safe, secure and happy working space with others that they know is extremely important. To come to the TV gardens, meet up with friends or colleagues, socialise, chat, work hard and learn new skills and enjoy it is hopefully what they get out of it.