The good of gardening: Cultivating wellbeing at home and in hospices

As a beneficiary of the National Garden Scheme (NGS) for the last 20 years, we’re proud to support the NGS’s Gardens and Health campaign this year.

Mark, who’s living with a terminal illness, tells us why gardening is an important activity to him. We also spoke to Lisa, our hospice nurse, and Sarah, our volunteer, to find out more about the goodness of gardens and gardening. 

A sense of humour and gardening things that keep Mark going

Mark Hughes has been living with cancer for 17 years. And since he was given a terminal diagnosis in 2011, he hasn’t shied away from speaking candidly about his illness and his future.

Mark explains why talking about it is the best medicine, and how much he enjoys gardening and being with his wife. 

“I don’t treat each day as my last  I just get up, enjoy the day I’ve got, keep going and do as much as I can.

“My hobby is gardening. It keeps you motivated, mentally and physically – you’ve got to do something to occupy your brain, it doesn’t matter what it is.

“I think talking about my illness helps too. If you hide away from the disease and tip-toe around things, you’re making it awkward for yourself and the person who has the terminal illness. If you are going to talk to someone about it, then go head on, because they know what you’re thinking and you know what they’re thinking.

“Positivity and laughter are the best things. If you’re laughing, you’re not thinking about the disease.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future, but I find the best thing to do is to keep setting myself goals and aiming for those.

And what also keeps me going is actually annoying my wife. Every day, it’s my main mission to get up and annoy her in the best way I can!”

Mark likes tending to his garden.

Mark’s top gardening tips:

  • Visit your local garden centre. I'm not someone who knows all the plant names. I use this as an excuse to make trips to the local garden centre so I can look around for plants that I’d really like for my garden.  
  • Use seeds and cuttings whenever you can. I enjoy planting seeds and taking cuttings, and then watching them grow and reading up on what the next steps should be.
  • Have an idea of how much time and effort you want to put into your garden. Although your garden’s conditions will usually dictate what you’re able to do with it, remember that the hard work still carries on at the end of the season when you’ll need to prepare for the next season.  
Lisa Butterfield, a nurse at the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford likes seeing people enjoying some time outside.

Being outside is good for the people we look after

Lisa Butterfield is one of the Charge Nurses at the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford. She tries to make sure everyone who attends day therapy gets to spend as much time as possible outside, in the hospice garden.

And that’s a good thing as many of them live in sheltered accommodation and often don’t have access to a garden.

“We hold regular garden parties for our patients and have lunch outside whenever the weather allows. During Wimbledon one year, we even had Pimms on the lawn!

“We also encourage our patients to get their hands dirty, by planting tomatoes and herbs in the garden, or helping with watering the plants  they get a lot of satisfaction doing those things.”  

Research on the goodness of gardens

According to a research report commissioned by the National Garden Scheme, gardens are great for your wellbeing. Read the full research report by The King’s Fund.

Visit a garden for charity

Find out how you can support Marie Curie and other care charities by visiting an open garden near you. Find out more about our partnership with the National Garden Scheme.

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