The first cohort of students enrolled on the new part-time Introduction to Social Therapeutic Horticulture course on offer at Sparsholt College celebrated their final project by presenting Antelope House, a small hospital in Southampton with three design concepts to redevelop their courtyard for the benefit of patients and staff.


Antelope House is known for its dedicated treatment of mental health. The small but mighty hospital is home to four wards maximising their impact and ability to help those with functional mental illnesses and offer intensive support and care.


The values of Antelope House align closely with the focus of Sparsholt’s latest course, aimed at passionate hobbyists, healthcare workers, horticultural staff and employees working in rehabilitation. As such the students took their involvement in the local community project incredibly seriously.


Rachel Knight is a registered occupational therapist and professional gardener. She completed her RHS level 3 at Sparsholt College and has also worked within the additional learning support department at Sparsholt.


Rachel is passionate about gardening and the physical and emotional benefits of being outdoors, she has extensive clinical experience as an occupational therapist and uses horticulture to meet individual targets for clients in the areas of physical, social and communication skills as well as emotional well-being, vocational and leisure skills. She brings a sound understanding of practical horticultural skills and plant knowledge as well as an in depth understanding of client need and client centred practice.


Rachel Knight BScOT SR0T


Ann Stow is a Chartered Psychologist, experienced educator, and professional Garden Designer, bringing a balance of art and science to the course. She took her RHS L2 Practical Horticulture at Sparsholt.


Ann considers the social, personal, and regenerative qualities of outdoor spaces and is fascinated by the wellbeing and therapeutic benefits gardening can provide. She brings a sound understanding of the theoretical and psychological principles behind sensory and therapeutic gardening. She is mindful of the psycho-social and wellbeing benefits of colour, sound, scent, and textural landscaping when designing, and reflects this in her designs for private and show gardens.


Ann brings her passion, enthusiasm and experience to the course.


Ann Stow AFBPsS CPsychol FHEA FCMI psc(j)


During the pandemic the health and wellbeing benefits of Horticulture, and being outdoors, have become increasingly clear. Growing interest in this topic meant this felt like the right time to launch this course. We are delighted with the uptake that the course had, and we are excited to see where the course takes us for the future.


The course has been built from scratch drawing predominately on the benefits and practices surrounding Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. We have seen a diverse range of individuals on the course all pursuing different careers and from different backgrounds. We look forward to developing the course further for September and have another live community project to work on.


The course’s current learners were given a brief from Antelope House for the redesign of their courtyard garden which consisted of a brief taking into consideration a complex range of health and safety implications. The learners worked in small groups to collate a design and mood board which was then presented to Antelope House and later shared with patients and staff at Antelope House for a final decision. A final design will now be compiled encompassing areas from each groups design. We look forward to seeing the design being implemented later this year.


Leaders in horticultural education, this adds to the brilliant portfolio that Sparsholt’s Horticulture Department has produced focusing on mental health and wellbeing, reflected most recently in their projects for BBC Gardeners World and RHS Chelsea entries.