Gardening helps prisoners ?pick up the pieces?

Female prisoners at HMP & YOI Styal have created a Show Garden at the 2015 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Show Tatton Park (22 ? 26 July).

As a result of gardening, they report to be eating and sleeping better, have an improved sense of wellbeing and are less inclined to self-harm.

This is the fourth consecutive year that staff and female prisoners working towards their City & Guilds Practical Horticulture Skills qualifications have created a garden at the show.

The prisoners are engaged and involved from the start of the process, providing a great sense of ownership. For some it is the first time they have tried their hand at horticulture.

To create an award-winning Show Garden adds to the sense of achievement that comes with gardening.

There has been growing evidence in recent years of the positive effect horticulture can have on physical and mental health, and wellbeing.

Eddie Tarry, Business Community Engagement Manager at HMP & YOI Styal, one of the country?s largest women?s prisons, has witnessed the effects first hand.

Tarry, says: ?Prisoners involved in the horticultural projects at HMP & YOI Styal complete a questionnaire to chart their progress, and early findings show that the women working on the Show Garden at Tatton are sleeping, eating and generally feeling much better both physically and mentally.

?Cases of self-harming among the women involved have also significantly reduced, suggesting the positive effect horticulture in a prison environment can have for the prisoners. ??

?The project helps them develop new skills, and build a sense of pride and community spirit, which in turn builds their self-esteem and confidence,? said Eddie. ?There is a real feel-good factor across the whole prison as everyone comes together to support the team.?

The positive effects of gardening on health and wellbeing were highlighted in a *survey commissioned by the RHS about gardening and growing plants where 92% of 2,000 respondents said that being in a garden helped them to relax and de-stress, with 95% revealing that gardening helps lift their mood.

A prisoner working on the Show Garden adds: ?I have been inspired by the difference horticulture has made to me personally. I now sleep better and feel more confident. I enjoy getting up for work and gaining further horticulture skills. Each day is different. I helped design and draw this year?s Show Garden for Tatton, which helped other women to visualise what the garden would look like. It has been a great journey to work on the concept and design of the garden from start to finish.?

Entitled ?Picking up the Pieces?, the Show Garden demonstrates the prisoners? desire to move forward in their lives and inspire others going through difficult times to reflect and realise that most situations, however difficult, can often be improved and overcome.

For prisoners going through a difficult time while in prison, ?Picking up the Pieces? has inspired them to fulfil their potential, and this aspiration is reflected in the design. The garden is enclosed on three sides by a bespoke jigsaw. Each piece of the jigsaw represents different aspects of the community, highlighting how working together can build positive relationships and that much can be achieved through education and support.

For more about or to buy tickets for RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2015, visit: rhs.org.uk/tatton

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