As some of you may know, this year Dr Olivia Chapple was invited to be part of a panel contributing to Gardeners’ World Magazine’s ‘Grow Yourself Healthy’ campaign. 

Olivia has now contributed to two issues alongside Margaret Kievel and Victoria Theakston, who have both spent time in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury. 

In the magazine’s May issue, the focus was on gardening for better sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is universally recognised as being integral to our quality of life, helping us to recuperate on a nightly basis in order to stay fit, alert, and healthy. 

So how does gardening help? Firstly, it’s an easy way to be physically active which naturally helps you to feel tired at the end of the day. Beyond this, it also ensures that you’re outside, getting that all-important exposure to fresh air and daylight which helps to set our circadian rhythms. 

Standing testament to the value of escaping to the great outdoors is Margaret, who is currently spending much of her time in Horatio’s Garden Salisbury for this very reason. Margaret very kindly shared her experiences with the Gardeners’ World team, telling them that initially her sleeping pattern was hugely disrupted. Not only was she contending with the hustle and bustle of the ward, but also faced being awoken every three hours to be turned in her bed in order to stop pressure sores. 

However, this all changed when she visited Horatio’s Garden. Having this beautiful space made a huge difference to her sleep, helping her to break a vicious and exhausting sleep cycle which left her feeling refreshed. 

As Margaret’s story illustrates, everyone can gain so much by simply making the most of outdoor spaces, which is why it is so important for them to be accessible to both those in hospital and beyond.

July’s issue elaborates around a similar theme; gardening for a healthy body. 

Olivia reveals in the issue that 80% of households in the UK have access to a garden, making gardening for health an affordable possibility for almost everyone. 

Both Olivia and Richard Thompson, a National Garden Scheme trustee, endorse the fact that gardening as an all-round workout is just as effective as going to the gym. Most importantly too, it offers everyone the chance to strengthen their muscles, something that is particularly valuable as you get older and which is enormously beneficial to spinal injury patients. 

Victoria generously offered to share her story with the magazine, attesting to how the garden was a lifeline throughout her rehabilitation in 2014. She recalls in the article how during her first visits to the garden she was weak, struggling to sit upright for long periods of time after spending so long on bedrest.  

Yet that soon changed. Going to the garden became her motivation, and in propelling herself there she didn’t even realise that she was exercising and making herself stronger. As time went on, Victoria progressed from a wheelchair to a wheeled zimmer frame and acknowledges how much the garden helped to build her confidence as she began to walk again. 

As the magazine states, her positive experience tallies with many others. Olivia reaffirms this by writing that gardening is a way to create interest and purpose, motivating you to carry on and bringing with it a sense of community if you get involved alongside other people. 

With so many incredible health benefits covered in just two short articles, we hope many of you will be inspired by this year’s campaign to discover a newfound love for gardens and the natural world. The positive benefit will be the same regardless of whether your garden is big or small, so why not give it a go this summer and see for yourself how much gardening has to offer.