The Well Gardened Mind is a guide to how nature and gardening in particular can have a positive impact on our mental health from Sue Stuart-Smith, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist.
The book covers a lot of ground, including a history of ideas around gardening and horticultural therapy; a historical examination of the development of gardening itself; an overview of how nature and flowers have influenced artists and thinkers including Claude Monet, Wilfred Owen and Sigmund Freud and the importance of botany and horticulture to factory workers and miners in northern England during the 18th and 19th centuries. Bringing things up to date, Stuart Smith also looks at modern urban gardening from Incredible Edible Todmorden in the north of England to urban farms in inner city areas of the USA and therapeutic gardens including Horatio's Garden, which has branches in spinal injury centres in the UK.
Along the way, the author explores how gardening can help us, through offering us a safe place in which to develop a relationship with nature. She also explores the idea that we can nurture our own sense of well-being and our relationships with others, in the same way that we would nurture a garden. In these pages, we meet many people, from soldiers in the trenches of World War One to prisoners, whose lives have been transformed by the power of gardening.
The book is a fascinating mix of memoir, reference and inspiring case studies of both individuals who have benefited from gardening and also organisations that offer horticultural therapy. It's very readable, but also very useful for horticultural therapists.
As the author says, in her conclusion:
'In a world that is increasingly dominated by technology and consumption, gardening puts us in a direct relationship with the reality of how life is generated and sustained, and with how fragile and fleeting it can be. Now, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves that first and foremost, we are creatures of the earth'