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Gardens for health & wellbeing Richard Rogers

If asked why they spend so much time outside, often in all weathers, most gardeners will quickly tell you “it makes me feel good”. There is growing scientific evidence for the health and wellbeing benefits of gardens and greenspace. For example, studies that have been conducted in hospitals have found that patients who had a view of plants and trees recovered more quickly than patients who only had a view of a brick wall.  As ‘social prescribing’ expands within the NHS, some doctors have already started to issue prescriptions for a healthy course of gardening! The charity Thrive, that we have been involved with, have known this for some time and for over 40 years have been using gardening and horticulture to bring about positive change in people’s lives.

Simply being outside, amongst plants and the beauty of nature helps us to relax and switch off  - from the focussed mental attention we need to give to the business of living and working. A theory to help explain this has been termed ‘biophilia’ or our innate love of nature and living things. This makes sense when you think that for most of human history we have lived in much closer connection with the land and to nature than we do now.

We design gardens that we hope will maximise the capacity that plants have to bring their owners health and happiness. Of course we all have different likes and dislikes – some people love tightly clipped, highly manicured gardens with clean lines and others prefer a looser, more naturalistic look. Everyone is unique, so it is always a joy to create a garden that will help the owner of a garden that has been specifically created for them, feel more alive.

How can we design a garden for health and wellbeing?

Whilst you will also have your own preferences, here are few design elements we believe are worth considering when creating your own tranquil haven.

1)      Create a journey. Gardens are often a large central lawn surrounded by flower beds around the boundaries, which can often feel uninspiring. By dividing up the space in different ways - using a combination of hard landscaping (paths, paving), structures, trees, hedges and planting beds, a journey can be created through the garden. By creating an interesting route through the space, instead of being visible all at once, the garden can gradually reveal itself – offering fresh views, varying moods and a feeling of discovery.

2)      Create something beautiful. By creating something so beautiful that it literally interrupts the continuous stream of thinking that our minds are usually preoccupied with, we can start to quieten the mind and find more peace and harmony within us. Focal points such as a specimen plant or a statue can help focus our attention on something of beauty and create ‘wow’ moments.

3)      Appeal to all the senses. Choose a few plants for scent – either leaves that release their aromas as you brush past them or flowers that fill the air with scent – especially near your seating areas. Think about texture and form, how things with move with the wind or catch the light.

4)      Consider using water. We often incorporate water within a design as it brings as special quality to the space. Moving water can be very soothing (if not overdone), and still water can create beautiful reflections – either of elements within the garden or as a ‘mirror for the sky’.

5)      Create places to sit and be still. We built a garden at the RHS Chatsworth Flower show, specifically designed to be a place to practice ‘mindfulness’. The garden has a place to sit, reflect and meditate. The seating area was sunken, surrounded by plants and faced a statue that was reflected in a pool of water – all to enhance a feeling of peace and connection. Think about where you would like to sit at different times of day and what will enhance the view or feeling of being there. Paradoxically a swing seat may help to quieten the mind as it allows your focus of attention to rest on your own movement and the changing scene around you.

Richard Rogers Designs is an award winning garden design studio, based near Oxford. Their designs incorporate ideas on health and wellbeing and combine contemporary design ideas with a sensitivity to the site and their clients personalities and aspirations.

With many thanks to Richard Rogers

07525 271590

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Posted by Siobhan on February 3rd 2020

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