Following a recent Facebook appeal for some fine examples of local gardening, Lisa Hendley of Alzheimer’s Society got in touch to show us these stunning gardens - all planned, planted and maintained in the grounds of Ferrard House, Antrim by a small group of men living with dementia.
The garden is one of many projects and services offered by the Alzheimer’s Society which has been running for four years, meeting on a weekly basis.
Lisa Hendley of Alzheimer’s Society explained, “None of us; the volunteers, group members or myself are gardeners. We learn by trial and error and occasionally by calling in someone who does know what they are doing to guide us!
“The men all have a diagnosis of dementia. The garden is one place they come without their carers and they lose themselves in the friendship and support of one another.
“We have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. There is a lot of activity where they feel needed and useful, whether it’s mowing the grass, pruning, weeding or tending the flowers and vegetables.
“The garden enables then to feel more connected to the natural world by being outside digging, planting, growing, and enjoying their garden.
“As well as the obvious benefits of growing your own plants – such as access to healthy food and exercise – the growing space also helps them to feel more relaxed and healthier in body and mind.
“The garden develops a sense of pride and to encourage this we have an open day once a year where families and friends come along to see what they have been doing while attending the group.”
One of the men who participates in the group commented, “As people with dementia, we feel a lot like seeds. Lock us away or simply ignore us and we will rot and die.
“But, with a little understanding, support, and encouragement, we can continue to flourish, be creative and contribute to our society.”
Lisa added, “We have a selection of rose bushes, iris, daisies, lupin, marigold, sweet pea, canterbury bells, anemone, wild flowers, dahlia, heather, Christmas rose, mouse plant, delphiniums, fox glove, peony, poppy, naked lady, portulaca, st. john’s wort, fruit bushes, tomatoes, peas, beans, beetroot, onions and we hope to have pumpkins in the Autumn.
“Basically, we will find a space for anything and everything!
“We have a limited budget and each year harvest our seeds to sow again the following year. We have annuals and perennials and each year, as we clear more of the garden, we discover new plants.
“We take donations of bulbs, seeds and shrubs all year round and get a thrill when a particularly ill looking plant survives and blooms.”
To find out more, visit alzheimers.org.uk.