The Queen’s Nursing Institute and the National Garden Scheme have announced five new gardens and health projects led by nurses taking place in 2023.

The projects are part of the NGS Elsie Wagg (Innovation) Scholarship programme which was created by the two charities in 2021. The programme is named after Elsie Wagg, the QNI Council member who had the idea to establish the National Garden Scheme in 1927.

The five projects are all led by nurses working in community settings and seek to improve the health of local people, often a specific group with particular health needs. Outline descriptions of the five projects are given below. Each project benefits from up to £5000 in funding, as well as a year-long professional development programme by the QNI. The programme refines and helps measure outcomes demonstrating real benefits to individuals. Many projects supported by the QNI go on to become part of mainstream services.

The five projects are being delivered alongside other QNI Community Nursing Innovation Projects that are not garden-themed. All this year’s projects will run until early 2024 when they will submit their final reports.

George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme commented:

“We are delighted to be announcing five new gardens and health projects as part of the NGS Elsie Wagg (Innovation) Scholarship programme. Recent evidence has demonstrated the widespread benefits that gardens offer to a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, and from their initial presentations I know that these will be really impactful and rewarding projects. The programme is an increasingly important exemplar of the synergy between our major nursing beneficiaries and our gardens and health programme.”

Dr Amanda Young, Director of Nursing Programmes (Innovation) at the QNI commented:

“Community nurses have such great innovative ideas to improve the health and wellbeing of their local communities and individuals. These nurse-led projects all share a vision and are sharing learning and expertise to drive innovation and change for the better.”

The 2023 projects

‘Sanctuary’ – A gender-specific safe outside space to be enjoyed – Gloucester

This project seeks to provide a safe space for women with serious mental health illness in Gloucester. The garden will provide an area for women to relax, meet, and for therapy to take place within a designated area that is peaceful and designed with them in mind.

Project leaders: Angela Willan and Claire Holloway.

Angela Willan said: “I am keen to develop a women-only, safe space for women with serious mental illness. I have always had a keen interest in women’s health and I am passionate about improving their physical and mental health. This garden will provide a fantastic area for women to relax, meet, and for therapy to take place within an area that is peaceful and designed with them in mind.

“Engagement in gardening has been shown to have both immediate and long-term effects on mental health outcomes, such as reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, while gardening daily is associated with reduced stress and increased life satisfaction. Selecting and planting specific plants/herbs/flowers, with community volunteers, will aim to support menopause and other health issues specific to women. Having a safe space outside, in which to expand the discussion and activity, such as planting of herbs, vegetables or wildflowers, will help enhance this approach in a creative and purposeful way. 

“Physiotherapy and health and exercise practitioners will offer activities such as yoga, fitness and mindfulness sessions for both community and inpatients. Service users will have the opportunity to be involved in the design, planting and ongoing maintenance of the garden area, hopefully encouraging a love of gardening which can be carried on after the women have left the facility.” 

Greener Care Home Project – Staffordshire

This project aims to introduce health clinics and post-Covid rehabilitation sessions in care homes using gardening as a focus.

The project aims to support people’s mental health and wellbeing and provide the opportunity for early identification of deteriorating patients. The project aims to improve mental health and wellbeing for residents, increasing mobility and dexterity, providing early health promotion messages, good nutrition, hydration and exercise. It also supports the objective of enhancing health in care homes following the Covid Pandemic.

Four care homes are each being provided with five deep planters for the gardening. The funding is being used to build table-top planters, tools, seeds and plants, recyclable waste boxes, education and support for activity coordinators.

Project leaders: Carolyn Fleurat and Anna Redpath.

Carolyn says: “I have a passion for service improvement, sustainability and transformation. The project incorporates the NHS Green Plan into our care home network using social prescribing, offering well-being sessions and empowering care coordinators to provide green space and facilitate gardening sessions. We will also look to implement recyclable and sustainable products and introduce recyclable waste boxes. This will encourage residents’ hobbies and interests, as well as improving their mood and supporting the reduction of hospital admissions and GP visits. In addition, it will provide opportunities for clinicians to identify early deterioration in residents and will involve therapy and use a non-pharmacological approach.” 

New Longton Wellbeing Garden Scheme – Lancashire

This project aims to transform wasteland at the back of a GP surgery into a garden that can be used by patients and the local community. The objective will be to create an environmentally friendly garden of three raised beds and small greenhouse to grow fruit and vegetables. Nurses will lead gardening groups for those with long term conditions, working together on a garden that can be tended and used all year round for staff, patients, and community to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Project Leaders: Corrie Llewellyn QN and Lindsey Whiteley.

Corrie says: “This project will provide a sustainable raised bed vegetable garden that all the practice community can get involved in and provide some sustainable healthy food year on year. We hope to set up a swap and share wellbeing group so that vegetables, fruit, and flowers can be shared amongst the community.

“The nurses in the practice are well-placed to hold educational working groups for our long-term condition patients who can help tend the garden, where physically possible, as well as benefit from fresh air, fresh produce and socialising outdoors, with an emphasis on healthy eating. The development of the garden will also benefit the staff, providing a quiet reflective space which will improve mental wellbeing. Our social prescriber can utilise the new garden for all patients, bringing the community together to help tackle some of the loneliness we have in our ageing patient population. This innovative garden model for GP practices can be adopted across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

“We are planning for diversity among those who will use the garden, for example scented and textured plants for people living with dementia or who are visually impaired. Our garden will be wheelchair/walking frame friendly. The vegetable garden will be planted with flowers to promote insect pollination. We intend to choose plants that are resistant to greenfly, mites and slugs rather than relying on pesticides. The production of vegetables and fruit can be shared to all groups involved to help with the cost-of-living crisis and provide people with fresh food.”

Botanical Brothers – East London

The project aims to improve the mental health of fathers in the community. The gardening project will connect with fathers to support their emotional health, providing an environment of calmness, tranquillity and safety to raise awareness about mental health, and improving access to mental health services. This will contribute to improved family relationships and build community capacity. It will be the first project of its kind in the area and we hope will become a lifeline for fathers. The men will be involved in the planning and development of the garden project from start to finish.

Fathers will be able to access a range of professional support, safe and confidential conversation, breaking down some existing barriers that hinder client engagement. Father/child/children relationships will benefit by bringing fathers and child/children together, to enhance attachment and bonding and improve family relationships by playing and learning together.

Project leaders: Fawn Bess-Leith QN and Mfon Archibong.

Fawn said: “My memories of gardening are woven from threads of childhood affection, passion and deep pride. My parents were involved in cultivating kitchen and flower gardens, which won prestigious awards. This passion has continued into my adult life and I continue to actively engage in gardening both at home and at my allotment.

“Currently, I am leading a quality improvement project for Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse fathers including those with same sex parents; non-biological fathers; those separated but with parental responsibility or fathers who are single parents. The new project will encourage interest, commitment and focus in the fathers group. The project is intended to foster an atmosphere of self-care, enhance awareness and accessibility to emotional wellness services. 

“The prevalence of paternal perinatal depression is well documented and highlights the need at national and local level for high quality holistic support for men, in particular from an ethnically diverse community. The evidence suggests that the prejudice and stigma around mental health in these groups impacts negatively on men’s mental health, in addition to poorer outcomes for their children and partners in the long term.

“I anticipate the growth and development within the garden environment will bring excitement and surprise to many. The calm, exhilarating and relaxed atmosphere will encourage socially isolated fathers to meet. We hope that the project will encourage an interest in gardening for fathers and promote inclusivity, to create a sense of belonging and acceptance.”

Grow Together – Share Together – Surrey

This project aims to redesign and rejuvenate the garden at Dorking Community Hospital. The focus of this garden project is intergenerational and cross-cultural interaction; through talking in a relaxed space, sharing memories and stories; growing food to learn about nature and encouraging conversation about the environment; sharing the food, sharing break times, memories, time and space by bringing children and older people together to create a sense of community.

Project Leaders: Simon Littlefield and Laura Price.

Simon said: “The garden is about connecting – Growing Together – Sharing Together. The vision is to use the space for patient rehabilitation, bringing them to the outdoors, into a therapeutic space. The garden adjoins the community rehabilitation ward, allows interaction on a different level, in a different space to keep the mind, body and spirit energised for longer. Health benefits include using the space for conversation/health promotion as a space to talk about health and prevention of ill health. 

“The garden will be a space for children, for teaching and education, learning and growing. There is the opportunity for life-long learning – engaging children in social and developmental opportunities. The garden will also be a space for staff to relax and unwind, where they feel they can switch off and recharge their batteries. 

“There is the opportunity to form a blueprint for other local communities, the springboard of innovation and inspire others. Introducing green spaces, part of the national agenda, educating about nature, about plants and the concepts of gardening and growing your own.”



Notes to Editors

The NGS Elsie Wagg Scholarships are awarded annually. Applications to run projects in 2024 will be advertised in late summer 2023 on the QNI’s website: https://qni.org.uk/explore-qni/nurse-led-projects/ngs-elsie-wagg-innovation-scholarship.



The photo is courtesy of Simon Littlefield.



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