In February 2014 Jose Spring, research and development coordinator and therapeutic gardening researcher at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, won a grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to visit therapeutic gardens across Scandinavia to investigate how gardening research in therapy was being trialled.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is a grant-giving body which enables British citizens to travel abroad and complete research and bring back their findings for the benefit of others living in the UK.
Spring was impressed with the approach to gardening-based therapy in the many units she visited. She said: "The use of research in the planning stage is really prevalent. It’s clear that Scandinavians think carefully about the evidence before creating gardens and garden activities."
She also found a much greater integration between horticultural therapy and the natural environment which is explored with patients in microscopic detail and also on a greater scale, for example taking in the tactile stimulation of tree bark.
Spring is writing up the findings of her travels in a paper for peer review as well as a more practical narrative guide for practitioners.
Once these are published they will be shared with relevant groups to share the knowledge as widely as possible in the UK.