Gardening for wellbeing: a scientist's view

Professor Alistair Griffiths explains why a seismic shift in attitudes is occuring as ever-more evidence shows how important gardens and plants are for our physical, mental, and social wellbeing

Water Your Garden (1)

A gardening green revolution has started – with increasing scientific evidence highlighting the critical importance of garden plants, gardens and gardening benefiting our physical, mental, and social wellbeing. There are very few, if any, other activities that can achieve all of the things that horticulture and gardening can – in particular, the measurable beneficial impacts on active lifestyles, mental wellbeing, and social interaction.

Your wellbeing gardenThe act of gardening helps us to keep fi­t and connect with others, to enjoy and be part of nature and to revel in colour, aroma, wildlife and beauty. Simply contemplating nature helps to rest and recharge our brains. Aside from cultivating beautiful plants that delight our senses, we can also grow food and even cures for minor ailments in our gardens.

"Simply contemplating nature helps to rest and recharge our brains"

Professor Alistair Griffiths

Gardens and plants also improve our environment, protecting us from noise and particulate pollution, as well as cool us in extremes of temperature and help mitigate against flooding linked to a changing climate.

In 2015, the RHS Science Strategy and the RHS John McLeod Lecture by Dr William Bird and Dr Matilda van den Bosch titled Health Benefits of Gardening highlighted the urgent need to undertake scientific research on the role of gardening and wellbeing.

In 2016, the Ornamental Roundtable Health and Horticulture conference held at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show brought together 150 key stakeholders from public health, science, and horticulture with policymakers from the government for the first time. The conference attendees drafted a Health & Horticulture Charter Framework, which called for bringing together and sharing the existing published evidence base demonstrating the benefits of gardening and health.

In that same year the King’s Fund published the Gardens and health: Implications for policy and practice report, which further highlighted the need for a priority programme of evidence collation and dissemination, supported by a further programme of research.

Leading scientific research

The RHS Science Team has over the last five years, in collaboration with universities in the UK and USA, been collating current scientific evidence on gardening and health, and is undertaking new scientific research.

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