GPs can refer patients to new therapy gardens in town centres as

Today Prof Tim Kendall, national clinical director for mental health, NHS England, said: “Gardening is good for our mental health as it offers physical exercise, which improves depression and anxiety, and also helps people find companionship and support. This is why the NHS is supporting social prescribing schemes which include gardening, to help people stay fit and healthy in ways that go beyond pills and medical procedures.” Tilly Williams, a clinical psychologist at the Camden and Islington Mental health Trust, added: “Getting involved in gardening or other ‘green’ activities such as conservation, can be a crucial part of a person’s recovery, perhaps as part of the healing process after various illnesses, or learning to live well while coping with long term conditions.“Gardening can be a peaceful, solitary and immersive activity. Sitting alone in the tranquillity of a green space can give time for quiet reflection or meditation, and perhaps offer a refuge away from a troubled life.“For people who may struggle with depression or low motivation, garden activities can energise them and bring a new enthusiasm and sense of purpose.” Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist at the RHS, said: “Gardens, in all their myriad forms, promote good health and wellbeing but their designs can also be tweaked to serve a specific purpose.“Sensory gardens have educational and recreational applications and use plant choice, features and installations to stimulate each of the senses. This might include tall grasses or bamboos that can help exclude everyday noise and promote a calming sound even in light breezes for those that need a space to relax of textured plants like lamb’s ears and silver sage to encourage interaction from, for example, those with dementia.”Ministers have urged GPs to prescribe hobbies such as gardening, art classes, and even ballroom dancing as part of efforts to boost activity, lift mood and reduce reliance on medication.In January, health officials detailed plans to refer almost 1 million patients to “social prescribing” schemes offering more personalised care.Research from trials found that family doctors who referred patients for hobbies such as gardening and fishing saw a 25 per cent reduction in visits to Accident & Emergency units. GPs are being urged to refer patients to work on allotments and herb gardens under a new scheme funded by the Royal Horticultural Society.Doctors have teamed up with the plant charity as part of a pilot scheme to prescribe gardening to patients with mental health issues and dementia.One of the gardens is in Highgate, where patients at the NHS Simmons House Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit will be working with the local allotment association. Together, they will create a haven for bees and butterflies by digging a wildlife garden full of insect-friendly plants.The other, Owd’ Martha’s Yard in Barnsley, will hold gardening activities for people referred by their GP to the area’s social prescribing scheme. With the aim of promoting social inclusion and light exercise, those attending will grow herbs in new raised beds that can be used to make tea including liquorice, mint and jasmine.A garden from Chelsea Flower Show will also be dug up and planted at an NHS trust in coming weeks, with 23 of a total 54 mental health trusts applied for the RHS show garden. This is after the success of last year, when Camden and Islington Mental health Trust was the successful recipient of a Chelsea garden to help patients. This year’s show features many gardens with well-being and mental health as a theme, including one designed by the Duchess of Cambridge, which aims to encourage parents and children to reduce stress by getting back to nature. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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