This month, we hear from our Social and Therapeutic Horticulture lead, Jane. She tells us how plants can foster hope and trust in us all.
When I initially made the career move from psychiatry to horticulture, people often signalled their understanding with the words “plants don’t answer back”. Whilst said in jest, there was an underlying assumption that human relationships can be stressful. Plants don’t give us that degree of angst.
Firstly I want to say that the relationships I experienced in that career were predominantly life enhancing and really not my motive for leaving the profession, but also that it was not what plants did not do that attracted me to horticulture – the opposite – it was what they did do; their restorative effect. I recall those days so vividly; as my interest in horticulture grew so did my amazement. Plants seemed endlessly fascinating and diverse. Suddenly a whole new world opened up. My daily commute on my bike through London was now marked by my spotting gardens containing interesting plants and trying to identify them. I would watch as they changed through the seasons.
What plants have to teach us
This fascination and sense of wonderment can be seen at work in our Social and Therapeutic horticulture sessions at Tuppenny Barn. It is heartening to see someone whose trauma has severely dented their sense of trust and belonging in the world, marvelling at a plant and how it grows – being fascinated by how it reproduces and revelling in a moment of joy and discovery. Plants are excellent at revealing how something that looks on its way out, if not dead, is in fact emerging back into life – either by setting seed or, as in one case I experienced with a client, of a perennial leek producing tiny bulbils as the flower stalk dried out and bent down to the soil under the weight of these packages of new life. This is such a tangible sense of resilience, rebirth and hope when first sight seemed just decay and diminishment.
This is a lesson that is sometimes easier to grasp in the plant world and allows a space for hope to shelter and be nourished in the face of adversity that for many of our clients is part of daily life.