Growing More Than Plants

20 May 2021
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Our Community Hospital Gardens are thriving plots of land that are home to a whole variety of flora and fauna alike. Surrounded by the sounds of the city, these oases provide a space for more than just plants to grow - Chris Jones, Patient Engagement Worker at our community garden based at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital describes:

“The thing that strikes me about the community garden, and to many of the people who interact with it – whether through volunteering, our groups and ward work, or just visiting – is that it’s always in a state of movement. There’s something reassuring on a deeply human level about knowing that the garden will continue to change, to develop over the year and that we can grow and change along with it.


“Our garden serves as a therapeutic space away from hospital treatments, and gives back some of the space that you can lose when you are admitted to a ward for a potentially long time. I think one of the first things you can lose when you have a long journey of recovery ahead of you, is the ability to really envisage a change in your current experience. The garden can become a living, breathing, representation of a more positive direction. From the bulb that you plant, to gentle growth and even the ability to eat and share the results of that nurturing – it can feel like a massive achievement, and can reflect some of our own internal struggles and growth.

“There’s a lot to be said for simply being able to be out in nature, and hear birdsong, see the evidence of nocturnal creatures rummaging through the plant beds, and the mindfulness of working with your hands, but a community garden is so much more than that.

“We bring together people from all walks of life - the experienced and new gardner are side by side, learning together and from the garden itself. A lot of people come to the gardens without ever having planted a seed or bulb, it can open a gateway to showing someone how they can physically change their environment which has often been an emotional experience for some of the individuals we support, especially when other changes feel so out of reach.

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“The gardens remain a community space that welcome different groups and visitors daily. Prior to Covid, Wednesdays were an opportunity for community lunches, sharing produce we’d all helped cultivate from the gardens themselves and the chance to meet friends old and new. Everyone Chipped in, from chopping to cooking, dishing out the cutlery to making the teas – similar to the garden work, everyone gravitates to a role that feels good to them, contributing to the community in their own individual way.

“There is great joy in learning that a patient who has been contributing in the garden, coming along to groups and being involved in what we’re creating here has been discharged. Sometimes individuals find something special whilst attending and it is a privilege to be able to guide them to further projects and support their new or re-discovered relationship with nature and the world around them.  

“That’s why the garden here matters, we’re not just supporting people to reach a level of health that helps restore independence, we’re expanding a community.”