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Non-profit garden project supports people suffering mental health

Leigh Johnstone holding a rake over his shoulder

A man living with a number of health conditions is launching a gardening project for people suffering with their wellbeing in his local area.

Leigh Johnstone from Shirley, Southampton, has suffered from trauma, anxiety and depression.

The 33-year-old, realising how mental illness can make people feel isolated and lonely is behind The Giving Garden, a new initiative for those going through similar experiences as himself.

Anyone signing up to the project is invited to choose a plant they wish to “foster” for a friend or family member and receive regular updates on how the garden is progressing.

When the plant reaches the end of its growing period the seeds will be kept or the flowers pressed and sent as a gift to the nominated person.

Leigh told Southampton Daily Echo: "It's the power of growing plants and flowers that helps me deal with my mental health when times are bad.

"I'm passionate about giving other people the opportunity to explore how gardening can improve your mental health. Now I want to use my own back garden as a tool to help me do that on a bigger scale.

"In 2020, in the midst of several lockdowns and the forced isolation that came with it, I started sharing my garden with people on Instagram.

"I posted pictures of flowers and started talking about how my garden was helping my mental health at the time.

"People started to notice and the account took off. I was getting messages from all over the world about how gardening was helping them and how much they found my content helpful.”

Leigh’s idea came to him after the loss of a family member which gave him the inspiration to find a unique way to remember them by.

"When my grandmother died from Covid-19 I found a box of gardening seeds in her greenhouse.

"I gave most of the seed packets away to gardeners across the UK. It was a nice way for me to process my grief, knowing something of hers was being shared and cared for by other people.

"It was lovely to receive pictures of the flowers growing in other people's gardens. This sparked the idea of The Giving Garden.

"It'll be full of plants and flowers, each one dedicated to someone struggling from poor mental health, low mood or just in need of a pick me up.”

For more information visit the Giving Garden crowdfunder page.

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