What kind of gardener are you? I’m a bad gardener. I don’t remember the names of plants. I don’t get around to planting things until the poor things are wilting in their pots and have been mauled by my local slug mafia. I fall in love with plants and plant them in conditions where they are never going to survive.
And every now and then I find myself standing in front of a room of experienced gardeners to talk about Thrive and Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. Often this includes a moment of terror as I realise that most of the people have been gardening longer than I have been alive (still true even now that I'm well into my midlife crisis!).
On the plus side, they’re also a friendly audience who believe in the positive benefits of gardening and being outdoors. And if there are any tricky gardening related questions, there are usually enough different opinions that I can sit back and referee the arguments.
But that's the beauty of gardening. There are so many different approaches. From the formal RHS qualified gardener with their pristine annual bedding schemes; to the organic wildlife gardener (great excuse for weeds and untidiness!!); to the allotment vegetable grower; to the busy family, kid proofed garden where not much survives except the tough shrubs that don’t mind the occasional battering from footballs.
That's also what makes gardening such a useful tool for therapy - it is so adaptable and different things engage different people. Dementia homes are discovering this. To make their gardens attractive to residents they need to capture the diverse ways that people related to their gardens in the past, - not just beautifully manicured lawns and bright flower beds, but areas to feed the birds, areas that need a bit of TLC (what gardener can resist pulling up the odd weed or deadheading?) and even areas to hang out the washing.
Here at Thrive, we are lucky to have a variety of different areas that clients can work in; from formal gardens, to wildlife areas to a productive allotment field. It gives the clients the opportunity to engage with the areas that have meaning for them and gives therapists the opportunity to modify tasks to their needs and abilities.
So maybe I'm not as bad a gardener as I claim. Maybe my garden provides what I need from a garden - a place for me to experiment and to learn by trial and error. So, when I talk to groups these days, I tell them that I come to gardening from an engineering perspective. And after all I’m in good company - so did Capability Brown, (well, landscape engineering anyway!)