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  • Writer's picturePippa McKinnon

who's healing who in Therapeutic Horticulture?

I recently had a drop in conversation with the lovely folk at THRIVE, the national gardening charity where I trained some years ago in therapeutic horticulture work.

We talked about what it means to provide therapeutic horticulture to clients, and just how nature, gardens, plant care and tending green space provide sanctuary and healing for so many.


When I say sanctuary and healing, I could mean many things, including a persons increased levels of calm, wellbeing and self esteem. I also refer to perhaps greater feelings of motivation, physical involvement, belonging, curiosity and care for the world around them. The effects are far reaching, the list huge...


In the years before and since my training, I have had the privilege of creating Mossy Green Kids

working with people in early years, primary and secondary schools and vulnerable young adults. Also on role with a community garden charity providing mental health support for adults. Together we garden smiles as seeds planted in hope, germinate. We also face the inevitable clouds, rain and failures too.


Over time I have observed wonder as beans scramble up poles in summer and excitement at harvesting buckets full of potatoes in autumn. People work hard, to care for all that has been planted. Ostensibly, plants grow and people grow too. Nature teaches so many lessons.


Spiders and worms have allowed fears to be faced and overcome.

I have seen tears fall, as loss of sunflowers eaten by slugs has given way to locked up feelings of grief at the death of a much loved pet.

Trees have been planted where few words could flow in memory of departed loved ones.

People have come together and community spaces have developed through vision, teamwork and hard work.

Despair, overwhelm, anxiety and grief, have been dug, planted, watered and tended into something manageable and often transformed into hope, growth, strength and wisdom.


At every turn; fresh air, wind, rain and sunshine have gathered the days and seasons into a melting pot of ever unique and changing experience's for all of us. Including me.


My personal experience of healing through gardening and nature is what led me this work.

Over many moons, my gardening has grown into a wild, natural and regenerative style. This has taken time, hard work and courage!

I will forever use the basic foundation knowledge of plant care, propagation, seed sowing, pruning and training. But these days, I am also guided by the permaculture principles of Earthcare, People care, Fair share. Principles such as these mean working with nature rather than against her.

I also work with ARK, Acts of Restorative Kindness (giving nature back to herself!)


The guiding principles I mention above have lead me to deeper, intuitive, heart felt work choices. Of different ways of moving through life. Isn't that incredible? A love of working in connection with nature landed me here and has evolved my approach to the very life I live every day!


Living in congruence with work and nature feels right. I sleep well.

Weaving permaculture principles and caring for green space into my life grows us good food at home and in the schools I work with! It grows habitats for wildlife and nesting birds.

Perhaps most importantly, this living and weaving grows my own healing.

Old wounds are now fading scars.

Starting small and effecting what I can, grows a resonance and peace.

That in some tiny way I can make a difference.

Belief in a better future, using these hands, this heart and mind.

Rooting down, into the truth that I am part of a life far greater than myself.


Throughout the seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter, trickles a pace, a rhythm, a heartbeat. Nature, plant care and greenspace...sanctuary and healing indeed.






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