Authors: Josephine Spring, Research and Development Co-ordinator, Royal Hospital for Neurodisability (London, UK)
Two research studies on therapeutic horticulture for neurodisability were conducted. The first, in London, showed ergonomic gardening was a suitable activity for residents with Huntington’s disease and helped meet therapy objectives, while also highlighting the residents’ preference for colors at the red end of the spectrum. Visits to 14 gardens in Scandinavia showed that specifically small, simple, evidence-based gardens provided effective therapy. There was more integration with nature and the benefits of viewing nature and indoor plants were assessed. Both studies concluded that gardening provided physical, psychological and social benefits.
The health benefits of gardening for those with disabilities were previously described in a British study  that indicated that gardens offered disabled adults relaxation and opportunities for exercise outside, a space for growing plants and an opportunity to make contact with nature in a peaceful environment. Ultimately this helped them to achieve. A review by York and Wiseman , showed gardening could contribute to a process of recovery that was satisfying and meaningful for vulnerable adults.
The Royal Hospital for Neurodisability is situated in Putney, south west London (UK), and is fortunate in having 9 acres of grounds, which were originally landscaped by Capability Brown. Residents are encouraged to join a garden group, of which there are five covering a range of abilities and diagnoses including brain injury, severe stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease (HD).
The study was initiated following the establishment of The Goodman House Gardening Group at The Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in 2007. The group was set up after a resident showed interest and became involved in the restoration of a garden that had fallen into disuse within a unit for HD residents. An ergonomic gardening method was subsequently designed and a study conducted to gain evidence about gardening with HD clients.