Therapeutic garden, St George’s Park

SHINE provided funding for the restoration of the therapeutic garden at St George's Park, Morpeth.

The funds allowed the Occupational Therapy team to purchase a range of materials to transform the space. “The SHINE fund has allowed me to provide horticultural opportunities for our patients with a holistic approach to mental health treatment, offering a range of physical, emotional, and psychological benefits,” says Lee Samuel, Specialist Occupational Therapist.

The restoration included painting woodwork (pallet planters, a bench and chairs) with bright coloured paint to bring a fun and vibrant feel to the garden. The team purchased 6 raised beds, which will grow a variety of vegetables – carrots, potatoes, broccoli, onions, leeks, lettuce and beetroots. They also planted a sensory garden with a variety of herbs – coriander, rosemary, curry plant, lavendar, basil and thyme – offering a range of scents and textures to enjoy throughout the year. An area of the garden was developed with a Japanese theme to aid meditation, with bamboo trees, sculptures and a meditation rug to sit on.


The benefits of horticultural interventions and activities are significant and align with the Occupational Therapy team’s holistic approach:

• Stress Reduction: Therapeutic gardens offer a tranquil environment, allowing inpatients to escape the clinical setting. Engaging with plants, flowers, and nature can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels.

• Emotional well-being: Gardening promotes a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. Patients experience a boost in self-esteem and emotional well-being as they watch their plants grow and thrive.

• Mindfulness and Mind-Body Connection: Horticultural activities encourage mindfulness, as individuals focus on the present moment while tending to plants. This connection with nature helps inpatients feel more grounded and connected to their surroundings.

• Social Interaction: Gardening can be a social activity, fostering a sense of community among inpatients. Group gardening projects promote teamwork and peer support, combating feelings of isolation.

• Physical Health: Engaging in horticultural activities can improve physical health, such as increased mobility, strength, and coordination, which can be especially beneficial for patients with co-occurring physical conditions.

• Distraction and Coping Mechanism: Therapeutic gardens offer a healthy distraction from the challenges and stresses of mental health treatment. Patients find solace in the rhythmic and repetitive nature of gardening, making it a valuable coping mechanism.

• Improved Mood: Exposure to natural elements and sunlight stimulates the release of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, leading to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression.

• Therapeutic Focus: Tailored horticultural therapy sessions can address specific mental health goals, allowing patients to work on issues like emotional regulation, impulse control, and stress management in a practical context.

• Rehabilitative Benefits: For inpatients dealing with substance abuse or addiction issues, horticultural therapy offers a constructive and drug-free outlet for emotional expression and healing.

• Sensory Stimulation: The rich sensory experience of therapeutic gardens, with their vibrant colours, scents, and textures, can engage and stimulate patients’ senses, promoting cognitive and emotional growth.