For over 25 years the garden has been used as a resource by local residents, schools and community groups. St Mary’s Secret Garden has particular skills and experience in working with people and groups with support needs; such as people with learning disabilities, people on the autistic spectrum, people with experience of mental ill health, people with physical disabilities and people with other types of life changing long term health issues.
We have hosted a range of events engaging with the local community and are seeking to develop a cultural and wellbeing programme centred on our showcase ‘Wish You Well’ garden to build on their success. The programme will operate through local partnerships and self-financing activities such as theatre, outdoor cinema and art exhibitions.
Doctors, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapists (OTs) have long recognised the therapeutic benefits of using gardening with their clients, and more recently social and therapeutic horticulture has emerged as an approach in its own right.
In 2011 an OT student did a placement with us and wrote a piece for OT News. She said, “Therapeutic horticulture can benefit occupational performance, health, wellbeing and social connectedness and promote independence and confidence.
“I was lucky enough to observe these benefits first-hand at St Mary’s, watching friendships blossom and seeing the satisfaction and confidence inspired by a hard day’s work in the garden.”
Users of these services are individuals who have disabilities and long-term health problems. The garden setting provides people with support needs the opportunity to become a valuable member of their community by running and maintaining this open access garden.
The garden also enables them to learn about horticulture and healthy living to be outdoors and socialising when they would otherwise be indoors and isolated. Tasks can be adapted by staff and supporting volunteers through their knowledge of gardening and an understanding of the clients’ occupational/vocational and therapeutic needs.
Logistics and Costs
The cost of a therapeutic placement per person is £40 for half a day, £70 for a full day. For more information and case studies, download the document Therapeutic Placements 2014
Other Therapeutic Programmes
In addition to the therapeutic work we do with individuals through individually funded placements, we also currently conduct therapeutic programmes:
Mildmay Mission Hospital Training
We have worked with Mildmay International’s UK hospital, a pioneering charitable HIV hospital, for over 15 years in delivering therapeutic horticultural sessions throughout the year as part of the rehabilitation and re-enablement of patients with HIV and cognitive impairments. In the autumn, we make chutneys with green tomatoes, pumpkin and beetroots. In the winter, we work in the greenhouse planting bubs for selling, and packing seeds in envelopes, and we make lavender bags. Coming to the garden can be the only opportunity for the participants in this project to leave the hospital and is the most exciting day of the week for them.
Our most recent work with Mildmay , the ‘Growing Out’ project, was funded by Hackney Giving. Paula gave a successful funding bid presentation at the Hackney Giving Live launch event in February 2014 – you can see the video here. She followed this up six months later with a second progress report presentation on the early stages of the project – see the second video here.
Our final report An evaluation of the ‘Growing Out’ project at St Mary’s Secret Garden: September 2014 – January 2015 (docx file, 2.1Mb) can be downloaded from the Our Impact section of this website.