If you've ever wondered what you can learn about Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) on a Thrive course, Katy Perceval provides some first-hand insights.
It’s not often you’ll find me potting on thyme with one hand behind my back and my eyes closed, but this was one of the most insightful (and tricky!) parts of the Introduction to STH Practice workshop I enjoyed at Thrive’s Battersea Park Garden Project in London.
Thrive's been using gardening to change lives, in its own rather lovely way, for almost 40 years – not only through its practical sessions with clients at its regional centres, but also through the comprehensive programme of training and online resources it offers for those who want the knowledge and skills to make 'green care’ a part of their working life.
Cue my one-day workshop. I’m a Thrive volunteer, so, for me, this was about professionalising the things I already do and deepening my understanding of STH as a whole.
The challenge of potting on using only one hand and with my eyes closed (supported by a fellow student) reminded me of the different perspectives of some of our clients, and my role in enabling them to make that garden magic happen.
The result, in my case, may have been a bit 'messy’, but who said gardening had to be neat?
And, of course, the workshop wasn’t just about getting our hands dirty.
Being at Battersea, it included a tour of two of the four gardens Thrive uses in the park for client sessions and the chance to consider what makes them effective as environments for STH.
We also discussed the ways in which gardening can boost physical and mental health, and how to break tasks into their component parts so they’re accessible to clients with a range of abilities and needs.
But alongside all the science, research and simple common sense that shows how effective STH can be, the crucial thing for me – and, I think, for anyone else involved in green care – to remember is that, when done well, STH is also a lot of fun.
The clue’s in the name: it’s not just therapeutic, but social too – and that’s the real reason why it works.