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New research published by the National Garden Scheme, confirms the important health benefits that visiting a garden in the darkest days of winter can provide.

“Visits to our snowdrop and spring flower gardens are always a popular start to the garden visiting season and this latest research gives us more of an insight into why that is,” says National Garden Scheme chief executive, George Plumptre. “Existing research generally links the health benefits of garden visiting to the summer months when most gardens are at their abundant best. But our new research highlights the benefits of visiting in winter and, as well as comparing those to visiting in summer, shows how a winter visit helps combat the particular seasonal challenges that we all face at that time of year.”

The report also examines the effect of nature on wellbeing for visitors during the winter.

Key findings include: 

  • Wellbeing significantly improved after visiting the gardens in winter. Visitors felt more relaxed, happy and excited in the gardens, and less stressed, sad and bored.
  • The more time visitors spent in the winter gardens, the higher their wellbeing.
  • The level of wellbeing was similarly high for visitors in winter and summer, suggesting that visiting gardens during either season is likely to carry benefits. But the average level of wellbeing before entering the gardens in winter was lower than in summer, meaning that those visiting in winter showed the greatest increase in wellbeing.
  • The more nature visitors observed in the gardens, such as birds, insects, and water, the higher their wellbeing.
  • Visitors described, in their own words, a number of positive feelings while visiting the winter gardens. They felt relaxed and calm, happy and uplifted, interested and inspired, appreciative of the gardens, immersed and at one with nature, and hopeful for spring.
  • Visitors particularly liked the plants and flowers that could be found in the gardens during winter. Almost half of all visitors (47.6%) mentioned liking the snowdrops, 29.2% appreciated the emergence of spring growth, and 28.2% the scent of flowers like Daphne. A third of respondents (33.3%) also appreciated being able to see the structure, design and views of and from the garden, given the lower amount of foliage at that time of year.

“Our research suggests that visiting a garden in winter can be just as beneficial as visiting in summer, as long as you wrap up warm,” says report author, Dr Emma White. “This is an important finding, as we may notice ourselves getting out in to gardens less during a time which many consider to be dormant. But winter gardens can be full of life and interest. Our survey respondents felt that winter is the perfect time to observe the emergence of new growth and experience the unique joy of spring flowering bulbs. It is a great time to appreciate the structure of a well-designed garden, and respondents noticed lots of wildlife and beneficial natural features. So, whatever the season, we should all try to get out into gardens more, observe the plants and nature around us, and feel the benefits.”

“The National Garden Scheme has been championing the health benefits of garden visits since it first opened 609 garden gates in 1927. Now opening over 3,500 gardens a year we continue to advocate the improvement to wellbeing that a visit to a garden can generate. In 2016, we commissioned the King’s Fund to produce a report on the topic and began an annual funding programme to support gardens and health-related projects run by charities. A year later we launched our annual Gardens & Health programme to continue raising awareness of the impact gardens and gardening can have on everyone’s physical and mental health. This latest report builds on that work and illustrates what many gardeners and garden visitors know, that being in a garden really is good for you,” adds George Plumptre.

Find out more and read the full report.