Cherry Tree Nursery

A charity based on horticulture providing meaningful occupation in a supportive
environment, aiming to restore well-being to people with mental illness.
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Monday to Friday (all year)
8.00am to 3.30pm

Saturdays and Sundays

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Therapeutic Horticulture

During the day the patients shall be employed, as much as practicable out of doors, in gardening and husbandry.

As a principle in treatment, endeavours shall be continually used to occupy the minds of the patients, and induce them to take exercise in the open air, to promote cheerfulness and happiness among them’

Dorset County Lunatic Asylum 1811

The therapeutic value of horticulture is now much more widely recognised and promoted. It is of fundamental importance to us at Cherry Tree to promote the value of horticulture as a therapeutic activity, and, specifically, as a means of rehabilitation for people with mental health problems.

The idea of horticulture as a therapeutic activity is a very ancient one. It was used in the Victorian mental asylums, which were permanent hospitals with large grounds where patients worked and grew food until the 1960s.

Since the 1990 NHS & Community Care Act, people with severe and enduring mental illness are encouraged to live in the community and most of the mental hospitals have closed.  Daytime occupation is thus of vital importance to reduce boredom, loneliness and isolation.

Horticulture as a therapeutic activity is now much more widely recognised and promoted. It is of fundamental importance to us at Cherry Tree to promote the value of horticulture as a therapeutic activity, and, specifically, as a means of rehabilitation for people with mental health problems.  In July 1995 Cherry Tree gave the first national presentation of its work and philosophy at a National Conference on ‘Gardening, Mental Health and Community Care’.

In 2005 Cherry Tree was one of twenty-four participants in a major study into the therapeutic nature of horticulture entitled ‘Health, Well-being, and Social Inclusion’. A Cherry Tree volunteer wrote the introduction to this study.

As you can read in the ‘Our research’ section, we have been engaged, throughout the history of the project, in research as to why, how and in what way this kind of work helps to restore mental well-being, We are thrilled to now be embarking on a three-year research project in conjunction with Bournemouth University.

‘I feel safe with plants. People can hurt you, but plants never do.’

Horticulture has been, and is more and more, used with every kind of human group, from children to the very old. It is used in different ways and produces different results according to the needs of the group, for example blind or partially sighted gardeners would use it very differently from young people with learning difficulties. However, gardening projects can be created to suit people with every type of disability and need, and open up a huge range of possibilities.

Horticultural projects can have a wonderfully restorative effect on survivors of major trauma: refugees, migrants, the destitute. There are such cultural associations with different plants, and people can be reminded of home by certain tastes and smells.


Indeed sensory gardens are becoming hugely popular, and we are regularly contacted by schools and community groups who want to set them up. Plants are wonderful in this way: sounds, aromas, sensations of touch and taste, the way they attract wildlife, the way a whole new feeling can be created. Plants provide endless fascination, constantly changing, enabling us to renew contact with ourselves and listen to the voice of the earth.

Plants can constantly evoke memories, which is of great benefit to those with memory loss, or unable to communicate their needs. At the same time they can offer something for everyone, whether familiar repetitive tasks or an opportunity for some satisfying hard work. Every plant we grow is an act of creation, an affirmation of hope.

‘We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as wild. Only to the white man was nature a wilderness, and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery’. Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

People depend on plants for survival, not only for food but for every aspect of their lives, from building their houses to reading and writing. The majority of medicines still come from plants. But plants feed both the body and the soul. They give joy and pleasure to millions, an escape, a release, a return to where we came from. Where there are plants there is life and hope. The world of plants is a world of wonders, of fascination, everything is linked, a web of connections.

‘When I wake up in the morning and know I am going to Cherry Tree I am happy because I am going to the place where I want to be. This is down to the buzz I get from people and plants together. I look forward to coming to work here. It is a happy and positive place to be. And it doesn’t finish here, I love the journey to work, the plants I see on the way, the anticipation…. a day here opens your eyes and makes you see things differently. It makes me love the environment, everything seems positive, but you need both people and plants, one without the other wouldn’t work. I love the opportunity to show people the experience, that there is so much more than we can imagine all around us’ - A member of Cherry Tree staff.

Plants show us that everything is cyclical, that nothing is created or destroyed, merely changing and becoming part of something else. Many of Cherry Tree’s customers say that one of the reasons they like our plants is ‘because they don’t die’; this is partly because they are not mass produced on a conveyor-belt, forced to flower together and to all look the same. It is the same with our people.

‘People and plants are such a natural mixture they go together like salt and pepper’

‘When the volunteers are together, they are the most strongly bonded unit anywhere, yet when they are on their own they are the weakest, meek, frightened and very, very lonely. The strength comes when they are joined together’





The therapeutic value of horticulture
Towards a happier life
Work project funded by sales
'Foreword to 'Growing Together'
Is Horticultural Therapy a Myth

Cherry Tree Nursery
Off New Road Roundabout
Northbourne, Bournemouth
Dorset, BH10 7DA
Tel: 01202-593537
Registered Charity No 900325
Website marketing services provided as a donation from MfP Website Marketing, Bournemouth