What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health. 

It uses the garden as a safe and secure place to develop someone’s ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that will help them to be more independent. 

Using gardening tasks and the garden itself, we build a set of activities for each gardener to improve their health needs and to work on certain goals they want to achieve.

STH is different from simply accessing gardening, it is a guided therapeutic intervention, with specific outcomes and goals for people with a defined need.

Being involved in a STH project offers a sense of achievement that leads to pride and self-esteem, and in turn this is great for our psychological and emotional health. 

The social environment created when we are collaborating and being kind to nature together, helps to develop friendships and connections. Building social connections both in the project and outside in the community, offering the chance to be less socially isolated.

Why gardening is good for your health

The benefits of horticulture on health and wellbeing can be found documented throughout history. 

Biophilia: Biophilia is the idea that humans evolved in a natural setting and are therefore healthier and happier when they are in contact with nature, we evolved from a species that was so linked to nature, it became part of our DNA, and therefore our affinity to nature is part of our evolution. 

The ‘biophilia’ effect is the theory that explains why nature is so therapeutic. 

The five key benefits to gardening are: 

Physical. Gardening can be accessible at all levels of ability, providing exercise and raising our heart rate, it allows us to maintain our physical abilities. 

Psychological. Gardening offers us a range of benefits psychologically, from giving us the chance to choose, be creative, problem solve and understand life cycles.

Social. The social aspects of gardening offer us a chance to engage with people, be part of a team offering us responsibility, building self-esteem and confidence. 

Learning. Gardening offers us endless opportunities for learning, from basic horticultural skills through to skills toward employment. 

Access to the natural environment. The feel of the compost or soil, the fresh air from an open window or being so immersed in your garden that you get lost for hours, the chance for restoration and recovery from stress and emotional overwhelm. 

Who we Support (Happy Days)


The Happy Days Charity helps to provide housing for people who have experienced homelessness. This is achieved through their Happy Days Community Programme which offers residents a place to come together through shared supported housing within a community setting to rebuild their lives. 

They are extremely vulnerable individuals who have all suffered severe deprivation, trauma and loss resulting in chaotic lifestyles and poor mental health and wellbeing.

The focus of the charity is on creating resilient and sustainable communities, designed to help rebuild lives and for individuals to re-engage with the wider community and society.

Serenity Wellbeing Gardens work with Happy Days providing weekly horticultural therapy sessions for residents at one of their supported housing locations in Halifax. These sessions have been running since April 2021 and have delivered positive and heart-warming successes in creating a sense of meaning, purpose, belonging and community.

Willow the Therapy Dog

Willow is our much loved, five-year-old Newfypoo (Newfoundland and Standard Poodle Cross).

She was behaviourally assessed as a Pets as Therapy Dog in 2019 and has since worked with young adults, in high school and at university, to provide companionship during challenging times.

More recently Willow and I have joined the canine befriending team at The South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundations Trust. She has been temperament assessed to offer therapeutic support to individuals experiencing mental health difficulties.

As Angie Barker, befriending project and volunteer support co-ordinator, explains:
“Experience has taught us that dogs can play a key role in supporting individuals who are experiencing such difficulties as they can reduce stress and anxiety and provide a distraction from upsetting symptoms, as well as promote social interaction and reduce loneliness. These incredible dogs provide unconditional acceptance, which is particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle to form connections or relationships with other people.

Spending time with the dogs can also help individuals to develop their communication and social skills; some people are more comfortable in engaging with animals than they are with other people. These dogs seem to have a calming effect on peoples’ moods and create a positive and relaxed atmosphere on the wards which then continues long after the visit has finished. “