Logandene joined the NHS Forest in 2022. The outdoor space at this mental health unit was not being used to its full potential by service users. The raised border was overgrown with large plants and weeds. The soil was stony, of poor quality and too low within the border, making it difficult for the service users to reach.
Many of the service users had had allotments, worked as gardeners or enjoyed gardening as a hobby, and when the site renovation was proposed, many were keen to get involved with the work and to offer advice. They helped remove stones and debris from the soil, dug up weeds, turned over the soil and added rich new compost.
The service users sowed seeds such as dwarf and giant sunflowers, marigolds, rudbeckia, tomato plants, beetroot and cucumbers. They used garden tools and familiar techniques, carefully watering and nurturing the seedlings. They handled the plants with care when transferring them into larger pots, chose where they were planted and wrote identification labels. This provided cognitive stimulation and encouraged them to maintain skills associated with writing, as well as encouraging other service users to read the labels as they admired them.
The raised border was soon filled with ‘home grown’ plants, and vibrant popular flowers such as geraniums, fuchsias, petunias, pinks (Dianthus), impatiens and other species to stimulate sensory and reminiscence experiences such as rosemary, lavender, ‘lambs ear’ and lemon scented geraniums. There was great excitement watching the tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, courgettes and marrows grow. The progress of the giant sunflowers sparked many a conversation as they could be easily admired from the communal lounge.
Several service users took on the responsibility of watering the plants, and watering cans were left visible and within easy reach. The success of the garden was very much down to their dedication in keeping it well watered, particularly over the hot summer days.
The benefits from this green space continue, with service users sweeping, clearing debris, dead heading flowers and collecting seeds in preparation for next year’s planting.
NICE guidelines recommends that people who are living with dementia engage in person-centred activities that promote wellbeing, cognitive stimulation and reminiscence therapy. This gardening project offers all this and continues to have a huge therapeutic benefit to service users. It gives them the opportunity to build on their concentration, motivation, and confidence, and their social interaction increases as they share their knowledge and skills and recall personal experiences and memories of their own garden. Service users have autonomy and a direct positive impact on their environment. They gain a sense of satisfaction growing plants and enjoy the physical benefits that gardening provides.
The garden was enhanced by the addition of vibrant hanging baskets. The potting shed was painted blue, a colour that is associated with tranquillity that evokes a calming effect. Labels with pictures were produced for the potting shed to identify where tools were stored, and nostalgic bunting brightened the interior.
Logandene’s green space is easily accessible to service users due to its level surface, handrails and seated areas. The process of renovating this outdoor space has bought the Logandene inpatient unit together. It provides many topics of conversation and is a space that is enjoyed and admired not only by service users but by their families, carers, visitors and staff.