Here Thrive, the UK charity that uses therapeutic gardening to change lives, shows how it has made a difference to Melanie’s life.
Two years ago when Melanie came to Thrive just after her father died, she was, in her own words, a different person. Losing both parents (her mother had died some years before) had left her feeling upset and withdrawn and for Melanie, who has learning and mobility difficulties, it also meant leaving her childhood home in Norfolk to move in with her sister in Berkshire.
At this challenging time, Melanie’s love of gardening brought her to Thrive. She attended the charity’s Growing for Life project which became the starting point towards a new life for her.
Under the guidance of a Horticultural Therapist and with the support of Janice, one of the many volunteers at the charity, Melanie has built on her previous knowledge to learn different gardening techniques and good horticultural practice. She has become physically stronger and developed ways of working around her mobility problems. Spending time with other people, sharing ideas and experiences, has also helped Melanie to grow in confidence and forge friendships based on a mutual love of gardening.
“Speaking to people has done me the power of good. Thrive is a wonderful place. If I am ever on a downer, they will listen,” said Melanie.
Gardening with Thrive is particularly beneficial for people like Melanie in ways which might come as a surprise to others. Beyond practical, horticultural skills it’s also about shared experiences, friendships and building confidence.
In time, Melanie was offered the opportunity to choose her own square metre plot, and take control of everything from the design and layout to the choice of plants and the actual sowing and growing process. The design was completely her own idea; a perimeter border of colourful primulas and primroses with room for spring bulbs, and a very original centrepiece – a miniature football pitch complete with goal nets! This celebrates her happy childhood and the family’s love of Norwich City Football team, from outings with her beloved dad to going to matches with her nephews.
“It was my idea to do the football pitch and I was encouraged by everyone at Thrive to go ahead. I feel mum and dad are looking down on it and smiling.”
Melanie’s journey doesn’t end there. Born with cerebral palsy and more recently diagnosed with diabetes, Melanie needed help from her family and had always lived at home with her parents. Now through the support of her older sister, carers and friends, and with the increased confidence that has come from taking responsibility and making her own decisions whilst at Thrive, Melanie, at the age of 55, now lives independently for the first time in her life.
We are all so proud of Melanie, who says:
“I think I am doing well. I know I have achieved so much over the last few years. When I come to Thrive now I make my own sandwiches in my own kitchen. I do not let other people think I cannot do things – I get myself up and ready every day.”
Unsurprisingly, gardening also features in her future plans. At home, there is a large communal garden and Melanie would like to make it more attractive and colourful for the other residents. She is going to talk to the landlord and is looking forward to getting to work on it early next year. Who knows, she may inspire her neighbours to start keeping fit by gardening with her.
Thrive relies on donations to continue working with and helping people like Melanie and directly reaches 1,400 people each year. If you’d like to give the gift of gardening to someone, please make a donation online.
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.