Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 30.1 - 2020


Time for a (Gardening) Break: Impacts of a Green Exercise Initiative for Staff Health and Wellbeing in a Corporate Environment
Mark Christie, Louise Hulse & Paul K. Miller

Workplace health remains high on the agenda for many employers today, not simply due to extant legislative requirements but also the business-related costs of unchecked psychological and somatic health problems within a workforce. Although a robust body of literature has emerged in recent years indicating that absenteeism, presenteeism, low staff morale, reputational damage and reductions in overall turnover can be all be corollaries of businesses failing to engage sufficiently with workplace health issues, rather less research has directly investigated the efficacy of “green exercise” interventions for combating such problematic outcomes in corporate environments. Given the above, this paper reports findings from an ethnographic study of a green exercise initiative (“Green Minds”) devised for staff at a single campus-based university in the UK. Specifically, the research sought to elucidate and “unpack” the health and wellbeing impacts reported by N=7 (mean age 52.29. mean years of service 12.86) participants across the course of their engagement with the initiative itself, with a specific focus upon the mediating and moderating factors involved. Participants were interviewed while actively taking part in the embedded activities, and again after the initiative “closed” for an indefinite period (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Additionally, the two field-investigators on the research team took reflective notes and collected photographic evidence to augment these interview data. Five core themes emerged from the analysis: (1) Nature-based collective activity as a useful and necessary “escape” from work-related stressors; (2) Social connectedness was enhanced as a result of participation in the project; (3) Beneficial impacts upon individual health and wellbeing, themselves related to (4) Self-empowerment, and; 5) Exclusivity and inclusivity factors were reflected upon. The reported everyday benefits of participation in this form of activity suggest employers might consider developing group-based green exercise opportunities for staff as a useful, and relatively inexpensive, contribution to corporate goals relating to workplace health.

Community Gardens Cultivate Positive Experiences for Refugees
Dietlinde Heilmayr, Noah Reiss, and Miranda Buskirk

Gardens have emerged as an effective intervention to promote mental and physical health. Over and over, we have seen gardening programs cropping up to support specific
at-risk populations. In the present study, we examine the experiences of refugees (N = 18) with a community garden. Participants completed validated quantitative measures of physical and mental health, and also completed an interview about their experiences in the garden. The quantitative measures indicate that the refugees partaking in the garden had high mental and physical health, as well as high American and heritage cultural identity. These quantitative data corroborate the themes that emerged in the qualitative interviews. The themes that emerged support the idea that the garden provides support for social, mental, and physical health, and also allows refugees the opportunity to connect with their past as well as with their new community. The only negative theme that emerged was in regard to threats to the garden such as pests and vermin, suggesting that a gardening program for refugees is relatively risk-free. Overall, the evidence from the present study suggest that community gardens are an effective tool to promote mental, social, and physical health among refugees in the United States.

A Piloted Think Aloud Method Within an Investigation of the Impacts of a Therapeutic Green Exercise Project for People Recovering from Mental Ill-Health: Reflections on Ethnographic Utility
Christie, M., Cole, F. & Miller, P.K.

This paper considers a specific and innovative methodological approach to investigating the impacts of a particular mode of therapeutic ‘green exercise’ in enhancing the mental health1 and wellbeing of a group2 of volunteers attending a unique community-based project in a woodland setting in the North of England, UK. The paper was influenced by the distinct lack of studies embracing an ethnographic methodology in understanding the specific impacts of green exercise therapeutic interventions. Hitherto, research has largely focused upon the use of quantitative or less context-sensitive qualitative methodologies; pertinently, prior studies have typically under-emphasised the mediating and moderating influences underpinning reported positive outcomes from green exercise (Rogersen et al, 2020; Clatworthy et al, 2013; Gladwell et al, 2013; Okvat & Zutra, 2011).

The study employed ethnographic data collection including: compilation of fieldwork notes and reflective diaries, including an audio-recorded conversation between the two researchers; taking photographs of participants at work; using participants’ own photographs of the occupations they engaged with (that held specific value and meanings regarding place and connection to nature); and an embedded, innovative use of a ‘think aloud’ method, which elicits participant responses ‘in the moment’ as volunteers were working on autotelic activities within a nature-based environment, including, but not exclusively: dry-stone walling, gardening, horticulture and pond construction. Two field-based researchers, with a background in sports development and occupational therapy respectively, firstly familiarised themselves with the volunteers and the setting over a six-week pre-data collection period, in order to gain an insider perspective regarding the social dynamics of the group, and the special ethos and cultural dynamics of the centre. 

Findings suggest that such a methodological approach to investigating the impacts of a green exercise modality is not only productive, but also essential in fully appreciating the mechanisms and processes underpinning enhancements to mental health and wellbeing.

Nova Scotia's Horticulture for Health Activity
Lesley Fleming, Amy Davis, Lana Bos, Janet Carter, & Beth House

An examination of programs and services within Nova Scotia reveals horticulture for health activity that has been developed and expanded significantly from 2011 through 2019. Nova Scotia, a small Atlantic Canada province, has seen growing interest and use of programs, services and activities that utilize people-plant interactions as health strategies. From nutritionist-initiated school food programs and gardens, to urban farms, therapeutic horticulture networks, therapeutic gardens, and business ventures, these models reflect the Nova Scotian agrarian/historical/cultural context. The term horticulture for health began being used in 2018 to capture the scope of the horticulture-specific activities within Nova Scotia (Fleming, 2018). 

The Nova Scotia example provides insight into current models where horticulture is at the forefront of health strategies that can be informative and effective for professionals from health services, landscape and horticulture, government and business sectors. These include models of horticulture-health programming and gardens, community capacity-building, collaborative initiatives, and development of plant-based entrepreneurial businesses.

Nature-Based Activities for Older Adults: A Case Study in Singapore
Angelia Sia and Elizabeth Diehl

Living into old age was once the privilege of the minority. Increasingly, this is becoming the norm for many city inhabitants. In the tropical city-state of Singapore, more than 20% of the population are expected to be over the age of 65 years by 2030. According to a recent study, pre-seniors (aged 50–64 years) and seniors (aged 65 years and above) in Singapore reported a lower quality of life (QOL) than the general population, lagging in areas such as recreation, leisure, and positive affect. While there is a wide range of senior-centric activities already available in Singapore, the varied health conditions of participants need to be considered before they are introduced. Activities should promote a positive mindset and be adaptable according to the needs of participants. This article summarizes a therapeutic horticulture program for a geriatric population in Singapore and includes a description of twenty four group-based activities useful in therapeutic practice.