Gardens for many of us are a real joy. I’ve always loved to prepare the soil and plant those tiny seeds that magically grow into flowers and food, and sometimes something you weren’t quite expecting! My love of gardens started with a project in the Brownies and a Grandad who pottered away in his garden and loved to have his grandchildren round him. I’ve never done enough gardening – work, family, life have often got in the way of any serious attempts at gardening, at best I run around planting a few bulbs, scattering seeds and pulling up weeds. But I remember my gardens with love and pride and will remember always going down the garden to dig up potatoes for my tea and eating apples straight from the tree on a crisp autumn morning. I can still taste them!
My Grandad kept his gardening hand in for many years, including when he had dementia. It shrank from a big garden and his lovely roses to a greenhouse and tomatoes. but he still pottered and grew. He was never the same when he had to move into a flat and lost his garden. He lost an anchor, a world that made sense and that moved at a pace and way that he knew and that knew him. The knowledge of gardens and plants lived in his hands and his heart not his head. Losing the garden was another way my Grandad lost a chunk of who he was and I lost a chunk of him too. Gardening often lies deep within us, outliving the memories of names and faces, still giving us great pleasure in the here and now.
There’s lots of evidence of gardens and greenspaces are good for all of us, but they are magical for people with dementia whether you’re a gardener or not. Gardens get you outside into the fresh air – imagine never going outside again or not feeling the fresh air on your cheeks. Gardens delight all the senses – the eyes, ears, smell and sounds of gardens, the touch of the plants and the taste. Gardening is good exercise and keeps us mobile and active and in tune with nature and the passing of the seasons and with the physical world, the earth. For many of us, being a gardener is part of who we are and what we do, our identity. It’s a creative activity from planting the seed to arranging the flowers or making pumpkin soup or photographing or painting the roses.
Many of us have very happy memories of gardens and plants and loved ones. For me sweetpeas will always be special. And dandelions, oh and the robins that watch you whilst you garden. They remind me of very special times and my family and my life story.
Anyone and everyone can connect with gardens. There’s something to suit different needs and capacities and interests, we can all do something. Gardens can bring families and generations together. Gardens and gardening are inspirational and East Lothian is full of great gardens and great gardeners. We Bloom everywhere.
Day Centre Members and Care home residents tell us they want to be in gardens, to visit gardens and grow things. Is it so much to ask?
So gardens are on DFEL’s agenda. Can you help? Here’s some great links and ideas, there’s no shortage of inspiration, please share your garden ideas and activities. Dementia friendly gardens are really just people friendly, they are for all of us and generations to come.
Here’s some links to great ideas of Dementia Friendly Gardens and gardening in Scotland. Get planting!