Staff and service users celebrated the official opening of the Feel Good garden which is now flourishing at Highgate Mental Health Centre after being transplanted from the Chelsea Flower Show last year.
Trust Chair Leisha Fullick officially opened the garden by unveiling a plaque, and spoke about the therapeutic benefits of horticulture. The space is already being used by service users and staff, who do a wide variety of activities there, as well as some gardening or simply relaxing, sitting and chatting.
Leisha said: “This is a really lovey garden and is it wonderful to see it being used by our staff and service users. I’m sure it will be much appreciated for many years ahead.”
The garden was created by the internationally renowned designer Matt Keightley as part of a competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) with the NHS to mark its 70th anniversary, and to recognise the therapeutic power of plants for mental health conditions. It was a huge success at Chelsea, with visits from the Queen and the then-Prime Minister Theresa May. The move to Highgate was challenging and it has taken some time to get it fully established on the site, but now it is a tranquil haven with a wide range of blooms and grasses. Tomatoes and cucumbers have also been grown in raised beds.
C&I recovery service manager Andrew Kingston, who is qualified in horticultural therapy, drew up the Trust’s winning entry for the competition and put forward the site, which is used by Pearl and Garnet wards.
He said: “It is great to see the therapeutic use of gardening gaining greater prominence across the Trust as a result of this initiative. Gardening also forms an integral part of our treatment programme at the Community Recovery Service for Older People, which we use for periods of rehabilitation after people no longer require acute hospital care. I think we can all recognize the benefit that can be gained from seeing things that we plant grow and flourish."
One of the activities coordinators who uses the space, Kaye Breuilly, said: “It is a very peaceful place, sometimes we come out and do breathing or stretching exercises, a lot of people just like to come and sit outside and get fresh air out in the open, so we are very grateful to have such a lovely garden.”
Service user Terri Jane Morris said: “It is lovely out here. I like to be outside sometimes when the weather is nice. It feels good to see the flowers and the trees, there are lots of things to look at.”
RHS Chief Horticulturist Guy Barter was at the opening of the garden. He said the plants had been specially chosen with wellbeing in mind: “There is a lot of low-level planting which helps create a feeling of space and this is quite a low-maintenance garden, which should not require much pruning or hard work. It is nice to see it being appreciated and being looked after so well.”