Gardening for hope

Over recent years there has been much research indicating that gardens and green spaces are associated with better physical, social and mental health.

Driftwood Garden

The question still remains though as to how we embed gardens and gardening into daily life for everyone. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a garden are probably already aware of the benefits and how they can bring us hope, moving from one year to the next!

It wasn’t that long ago that the NHS officially included social prescribing in its Long-Term Plan. As the population ages and healthcare costs spiral, social prescribing and preventative healthcare will likely take on renewed importance.

Personally, I’d have to say that after a, not so good period of time, health wise, in the last couple of years, it has really been my garden that has kept me going and provided hope for the future.

The RHS website shows recent research that has demonstrated the role that gardening can actually play in helping to keep you fit and healthy. I was surprised to read recently that the number of calories burnt from 30 minutes of gardening is comparable to playing badminton, volleyball or practising yoga. Who would have guessed that? Another clear indication of hope, if we can get on outdoors and plan for 2024.

Celebrations and garden accolades

2023 has certainly been a good gardening year here at Driftwood. Without doubt, lots of hope provided for the future! The garden was celebrated, back in July, with a 4-page spread in the national gardening magazine, Garden News and on a personal note I was named one of the 500 Coronation Champions by the King and Queen, in May, for my charity work related to gardening.

Driftwood Garden
Geoff was named as one of the 500 Coronation Champions in May for his charity work related to gardening. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

The garden was awarded another Travellers’ Choice Award by Trip Advisor, placing it in the top 10% of gardening attractions worldwide again for 2023. This review, from a couple, Sylvester and Emily, who used a garden visit as an integral part of their engagement celebrations, back in July, really does show how gardening can bring us all hope, especially with the impact a visit can have.

“It was the weekend of my engagement to my fiancée, and I wanted to do something special, but intimate at the same time, and the idea of a garden visit sounded perfect – but was I wrong. It was BEYOND perfect. First off, prior to our visit, Geoff was incredibly communicative, and responded to all emails in quick time. He warmly greeted us on the day, gave us a super informative talk on the history of the garden, and we had several opportunities to take lots of photos.

Now onto the garden itself – It felt like we were carried into a time capsule, and transported to somewhere magical. The garden (both front and back) was incredibly well looked after, lots of beautiful plants, greenery, within an eclectic mix of unique ornaments, and handmade local gifts. My fiancée and I took lots of beautiful photos, and also enjoyed slices of delicious home baked cakes by Geoff. He also put a special touch with a ‘Just Engaged’ cake topper in my fiancée’s cake, which was a simple but genuinely lovely gesture. The front garden is lovely, but the back garden really takes it up a few notches, so if you visit, take your time, and make sure to see it all and take it all in.

All to say, for the price we paid for this, we had a brilliant morning, lovely tour, super attentive host, and wonderful memories. Highly, highly, highly recommend. We will be back, undoubtedly. Thanks, Geoff!“

Driftwood Garden
Sylvester and Emily celebrating their engagement in July. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

I have to say this brought a tear to my eye, knowing my garden had helped a young couple look forward and bring hope to their future life together! 

New Year planning

With the new year, plans are in hand for Driftwood’s 2024 openings. Now is a great time to get your thinking caps on, providing hope and aspiration for your own plot next year. The winter months provide the perfect opportunity to sit down and plan what you want to achieve, be it any new plants you’d like to acquire, changes you want to make to your plot or maybe work towards opening your garden for a local charity that is close to your heart!

In these unsettled times, gardening may be the perfect antidote to some of our troubles and worries. There is always something requiring attention in the garden. It provides a great distraction to occupy your mind. It gives purpose, focus and an end result for your effort. 

Let’s be honest, each time you come home with a new plant and give it a good home, it can be said you are performing an act of faith for a better future. One of my latest additions is this Leonotis leonurus, also known as Lion’s ear. As much as gardens provide bounty, they also yield hope, and we need hope for our spirits as much as we need nutrition for the body. Each new season, every emerging bud, any packet of seeds all represent hope. It can be said that the anticipation of the day a flower will burst into bloom with every petal seemingly amplifying the sun’s light will fortify our will to prove more determined and persistent than winter itself. Well, that’s the theory!

Driftwood Garden
Geof with one of his latest additions to the garden, Leonotis leonurus. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

It should come as no surprise, then, that in stressful times people have historically turned to gardens. Apart from any practical considerations, the therapy is so restorative. To be outside, to touch the earth, breathe fresh air and feel the sun’s warmth on the back of the neck is a great way to recharge your batteries. Creating something of beauty and abundance is a profoundly positive act of defiance in the face of all that is and can go wrong. 

The cycle of gardening itself provides hope with spring’s emerging shoots yielding quickly to a succession of dazzling flowers, which attract bees, whose efforts give us fruits. Fruits themselves bring their own beauty, sustenance for us and for wildlife, and seeds. Then of course seeds are perhaps the most precious gift, providing new life, they are a small but mighty assurance that a new day will come, a better season, and the cycle will continue. 

So, can there be any doubt that to garden is to hope for the future! Happy planning and subsequent gardening in 2024. Watch out for the garden featuring on an upcoming episode of a well-known gardening programme on TV next summer, filmed last August at Driftwood. 

Read more of Geoff’s garden at

Driftwood Garden
Filming at Driftwood in August. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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