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Identifying the health and social benefits of the British front garden

Identifying the health and social benefits of the British front garden

The Royal Horticultural Society has long acknowledged the range of benefits provided by green spaces and has supported the preservation of these spaces through initiatives such as the Greening Grey Britain campaign. However, they are not alone as increasingly, the advantages of being outdoors, having access to green spaces and carrying out related activities such as gardening are gaining increasing recognition.

Unfortunately, there is a trend in the UK to pave over some green spaces – with front gardens proving particularly vulnerable, and so it is more important than ever to highlight the importance of these gardens before they disappear from our landscape.

Finding the evidence

Despite the value that many people place on the sociological importance of having a front garden, this theory is yet to be definitively backed up by empirical research. This is one of the reasons why Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui chose to study this area as part of her collaborative Royal Horticultural Society and University of Sheffield PhD, funded by the RHS. Lauriane, who has graduated and now works for the RHS, carried out a three-year project to evaluate how front garden landscapes can influence human health and wellbeing. The study used a range of approaches including focus groups, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and sampling of salivary cortisol. The results are due to be published later this year.

Amberol plays its part

Amberol were happy to help support Lauriane’s project by supplying self-watering planters which were installed in 38 front gardens in Salford. The gardens were all paved spaces and so the planters provided the opportunity for flowers, plants and trees to thrive in residents’ front gardens. The planters’ self-watering facility also helped to reduce maintenance demands and to ensure good conditions for plant growth. Amberol supplied some half barrel self-watering planters for free and others at cost price to reduce expenses.

Amberol’s MD Patience Atkinson-Gregory explained why she was so happy to support the project. “We have seen for ourselves how gardening and horticulture can help people and communities in a whole range of ways – from mental wellbeing to enhancing the environment,” she comments. “We thought that Lauriane’s project addressed some important issues. Her findings will be highly pertinent for a range of services around landscape architecture and horticulture.

The story of the UK’s front gardens

Around one quarter of the UK’s front gardens have been paved over, while in excess of 5 million front gardens have no plants growing in them. In fact, plant cover has reduced significantly during the last decade with reasons cited including a desire for a lower maintenance space and the need to create off road parking.

Domestic gardens do not have protected status in UK planning law and are not classified as a type of land-use in their own right, so can be vulnerable to being paved over and/or change of use. While the ecological importance of front gardens is largely understood and acknowledged, the benefits to wellbeing have received less investigation.

Benefits of the front garden

Imagine a row of houses with pretty, well-planted front gardens - then contrast that image with the same row of houses fronted by squares of tarmac. That image speaks for itself, but there are many other reasons why front gardens are worth preserving.

  • Front gardens have an important part to play in our ecosystems as garden plants help to slow run-off, minimising the risk of localised flash-flooding.
  • Gardens are an important habitat for a range wildlife and are part of the food chain.
  • Plants and trees help keep us cool during heat waves and provide shelter and insulation in the winter.
  • Having access to green spaces can help with a variety of health and wellbeing issues including mental health, stress, anxiety, physical fitness and obesity.
  • Developing a sense of community. An attractive front garden enables its owner to make a positive contribution to the community that they live in and enhances their environment for all.
  • Helps to reduce noise and particulate pollution

With so many people in the UK living in urban areas, the importance of having access to a green space should not be underestimated. And with restrictions around Covid-19 likely to be in place for some time to come, this access has become an even more significant factor in both mental and physical health.

One quick and easy way to brighten up front gardens and grey spaces is through the use of planters. And self-watering planters are even better. Not only do they reduce the need for watering to once or twice a week, but they help create optimal conditions for growth so you can maximise the colourful impact they make.

The RHS and its work

The Royal Horticultural Society, the world’s leading gardening charity, was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood. Its vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. This aspiration underpins all that it does, from inspirational gardens and shows, through scientific research, to education and community programmes such as Campaign for School Gardening and Britain in Bloom. They RHS produce key publications, hold a world-class collection of horticultural books and botanical art, and sell the very best plants and gardening gifts.

For more information about Amberol’s range of self-watering planters, email sales@amberol.co.uk or call 01773 830930.

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