It’s tempting to wallow in self pity if you’re feeling unwell. My arthritis is playing me up something chronic; it does so when it’s a bit dreich. It’s good to keep on the move I’m told, but when it hurts I can easily talk myself out of exercising.

The Peace Garden offers me and many others, a way forward. Not only does gardening provide gentle exercise but I enjoy activities more when I am with other members. Their lives and stories distract me from thinking of my own problems; theirs are more immediate and important. They help me look outside of myself and my woes.

Each of us in the Lets Get Growing group has a whole lotta things going on…. we are ageing, some have physical and sensory impairments, many have experienced loss, our health may be deteriorating, we may suffer stress and anxiety. This seems like a list of negative attributes, but far from it! It means we understand, we have empathy and we also have time to offer each other comfort, support and friendship. Gardening together increases our confidence, our self esteem and trust in others

I have an allotment at home which seems like an awful chore at times. So why volunteer to do more gardening? Well, the enormous task of planting, nurturing and managing a large garden is made possible by working alongside each other. It is our co-operation that makes the task achievable. Alone it would be insurmountable..

If you read about the benefits of therapeutic gardening the researchers extol the virtues of being in the great outdoors, close to nature and learning new skills. This is certainly attractive however, I place as much value on the joy of connecting with others and the power of laughter, I find them healing and therapeutic.
I have lost count of the times that I have cried with laughter at a joke, or some clever word play at the Peace Garden. We also sing whilst we dig or weed, it boosts our spirits. Yes, even when we cannot remember all the verses and sing off key, we know our caterwauling improves our mental health.

You know how quickly the seasons turn; it feels like the world is spinning faster as we age. When spring comes around it’s time for planting seeds again, this time of year always seems to hold promise and hope for the future. It’s a constant wonder that something so tiny can develop into nourishing and tasty food. Because we often cook the food we grow we get to taste the care we put into our labour. This is our produce; it tastes so much better than the plastic wrapped, sprayed food in the supermarkets. We love the bumps, blemishes and the dusting of soil on organic food. It feels as if the care we show each other, the care we give the soil and the plants themselves translates into care for oneself.

Collective gardening is not solely for particular people but potentially for everyone. It can help us gain or regain our health and independence. It develops our interest and concern for the world about us. We gain insight by being involved in the lives of others. We are more socially aware and concerned about the environment.

The power of therapeutic gardening should not be underestimated; it certainly does provide me healing, harmony and hope.