Our GreenCare gardener overcomes anxiety to blossom at Chelsea Flower Show
One of our GreenCare gardeners, Sharon, has been praised for her courage after overcoming anxiety to volunteer at the Chelsea Flower Show in May.
Ipswich-based Sharon was unable to leave her flat alone before being referred to Suffolk Mind’s GreenCare service in 2019, which uses allotments as a tool to improve mental health and promote discussion about wellbeing.
Those boundaries were broken last month however, after she blossomed as a volunteer at Mind’s garden at this year’s show in the grounds of Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Sharon travelled to the show on her own, meeting Suffolk GreenCare service manager Sarah Manton-Roseblade in London.
“It was an amazing day,” Sarah said. “Sharon spoke so openly with people about how gardening can help improve your mental health, handed out leaflets and really got engaged.
“She loved learning about all the plants and sharing her own experiences at our allotment.
“She’s been so happy since and has even written to the Royal Horticultural Society to say thank you – she would love to go and do it again.”
This was Sharon’s first solo trip to the capital, although the GreenCare service had already inspired her to travel to Cambridge alone to see Chris Packham on stage.
Sarah said she hopes Sharon’s story will inspire other members of the Ipswich allotment group.
She said: “To think that Sharon wasn’t able to leave her flat three years ago and can now take the train to London on her own and talk so passionately with people, it is amazing.
“It was so nice to see her enjoy herself and how far she has come. It is so rewarding to have seen her from the very beginning of her journey to where she is now.
“Mind have been kind enough to donate some of the plants from the display to us, which we’re going to plant together at our next session.
“It will be so lovely to see as they’ll show the story of everything Sharon has gone through to get to where she is now.”
The garden was designed by eight-time CFS winner Andy Sturgeon, who is a firm believer in the power gardens provide as a refuge during life’s difficulties.
“The garden was absolutely beautiful,” Sarah added. “Sadly it didn’t win Best Show Garden, but I think it deserved it. It really highlighted the effect gardening can have on mental health.
“All in all, it was a brilliant day.”
Sarah’s role is funded thanks to the generosity of local people supporting Suffolk Mind. More information on Suffolk Mind’s GreenCare service and how to donate or get involved can be found here.