Plant study set to probe health and well-being

The RHS has commissioned the Universities of Sheffield and Virginia to investigate the impact of gardening on physical and psychological health and well-being.

The research, which will begin in January 2016, will focus on the dual impact of front gardens on both householders and passers-by. The project is part of the RHS's Greening Grey Britain campaign, which is asking the nation to transform hard, grey areas into living planted places that enrich lives and benefit the environment.

The new RHS research will build on previous studies into the relationship between green space and health and well-being, including those that have demonstrated positive psychological responses to certain design traits and flower/foliage colours. It will also attempt to investigate the "societal value" of community gardening projects, such as RHS Britain in Bloom.

The project will be conducted through a PhD studentship under the supervision of senior academics Dr Ross Cameron from the University of Sheffield and Professor Jenny Roe from the University of Virginia, together with scientists from the RHS including the charity's director of science and collections, Dr Alistair Griffiths.

One objective of the research project will be to determine how the introduction of gardening to those who have not gardened before may affect their mood, physical health and psychological well-being. One of the ways this will be tested will be through the analysis of the impact of re-greening previously paved front gardens.

Griffiths said: "It is vitally important that we, as scientists and gardeners, have robust, scientific evidence to support what many of us instinctively know - that being in green spaces has a positive impact on our health and well-being.

"It will be this evidence that will help us make the case for gardening to local and national government, and ensure that gardening is seen as a viable treatment for chronic conditions including obesity and some forms of depression."

Cameron added: "This is a great opportunity to get some strong empirical data on the role gardens can play in determining people's 'feel-good factor'. Too often gardens have been seen as rather peripheral elements in the urban planning debate. But they are our most common and immediate piece of green space and hence may have a significant impact on our day-to-day health and well-being."

It is anticipated that a PhD student based at the University of Sheffield will be selected by the end of November. For further details, email Ross Cameron at

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