We all feel better after an hour or two of gardening; the fresh air, the exercise and the simple joy of being surrounded by beautiful flowers and the fruits of our labour.
But for some people, the benefits go even further.
"A garden can help people living with dementia," says Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer's Society chief executive. "They can enjoy socialising, as well as taking part in physical activity and stimulating the senses, all of which greatly improve their wellbeing."
The regularity of nurturing plants on a daily basis also adds structure to the day of those living with dementia, while being involved in gardening activities like sowing seeds and watering plants gives a better sense of control, the Society explains. The cycle of sowing, nurturing, growing and harvesting plants, vegetables and flowers helps give a better perception of their lives. Also, the delicate nature of some gardening activities can help to maintain or improve fine motor skills and increase spatial awareness.
Garden activities can also help those with dementia talk about their past lives by reminding them about similar activities when they were younger, for example what plants, flowers or vegetables they used to grow.
Research shows that gardening can also help the wellbeing of younger people with early onset dementia.
"Younger people with dementia want and need activities which are stimulating, fulfilling and productive because they are still seeking activities which mimic the workplace model," says Jill Walton, support group co-ordinator at the Frontotemporal Dementia Support Group (www.ftdsg.org), which provides support and information to carers of young people with dementia.
Thrive, a national charity supporting horticultural therapy, holds a database of around 900 garden projects in the UK and can put you in touch with a project in your local area (www.thrive.org.uk or 0118 988 5688). Most Thrive gardeners are referred by social services or through a professional such as their GP or care professional, but others start at a project through their own initiative and their place may be funded by family and friends.
These larger projects are clearly wonderful, but for many people, gardening at home is where the real therapy lies. Indeed, recent research by Alzheimer's Society, in partnership with Homebase, discovered 83% of people with dementia want to live in their own homes for as long as possible; so how can you create a home garden, or modify an existing one, to give people with dementia the greatest therapy?
Thrive recommends straightforward way-finding: the layout of paths - essentially a loop - could take the visitor on a journey and return them to the starting point, while specimen trees and features such as pergolas, sculptures, bird tables and large pots can act as landmarks.
Create a series of places to sit, with focal points to look at. These should also be protected from bright sunlight, chilling winds and deep shade, perhaps introducing a canopy or a parasol to prevent exposure to the elements.
Use gentle changes rather than strong contrasts. For example, avoid strong shadows on paths, which might look like holes, abrupt changes in paving materials which may look like steps, or reflective materials which might look like water. These might give rise to general confusion and agitation and also present fall hazards.
When adding a walkway, Alzheimer's Society (www.alzheimers.org.uk) recommends paths which are constant, such as a figure of eight, as paths with abrupt endings can disorientate people with dementia.
Stimulate all of the senses all year round with colourful, fragrant plants and flowers, water features and wind chimes.
Scents can often create memories, so introduce plants to the garden that have great smells, such as lavender, rosemary, mint or thyme.
Sensory experience can be increased through introducing plants which are soft to touch such as lambs' ears or bunny tails, an ornamental grass which is soft and fluffy.
Of course, it's wise to remove dangerous plants as dementia sufferers may not recall which plants are poisonous or irritate their skin. Similarly, any plants with thorns or which may sting should be removed from the garden altogether.
If new plants are needed, select these with the person living with dementia. They may have favourites which bring back memories of happy times. Go to the garden centre and let the dementia sufferer physically handle the plants, flowers and gardening items which may trigger memories more effectively than looking at pictures.
For many of us, gardening is an enjoyable pastime - but for others, it's a lifeline.
Best of the bunch - Sedum
These excellent perennials are at their best in late summer and autumn, and their succulent foliage is a great backdrop to their plates of colourful flowers, in shades ranging from white to deep pink. Sedums generally like dry, sunny gardens and good drainage. Give them too much water and they will flop. Among the best varieties is Sedum 'Herbstfreude' ('Autumn Joy'), which looks great repeat-planted at the front of a border, producing swathes of coral flowers in late summer, followed by handsome seedheads which will prolong the season of interest. Others include S. spectabile 'Iceberg', a white variety which is a magnet to butterflies and S. 'Vera Jameson', which has spreading stems which creep over the edge of a path or in gravel, bearing dusky pink flowers above purple leaves. If you want year-round interest, go for the pint-sized S. spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco', an evergreen mat-former which will thrive in free-draining gravel or a pot, with grey leaves and a white flower.
Good enough to eat - Kohl Rabi
It may be widely available in supermarkets these days, but Kohl rabi, a member of the cabbage family and a continental relative of the turnip producing an edible swollen stem above ground, deserves a place in the vegetable plot. Kohl rabi likes a moist, fertile soil which is slightly alkaline. Add some balanced fertiliser a couple of days before sowing if it's dry in late spring and early summer. Sow little and often through the summer in seed drills 1.5cm deep by 15cm apart, covering with a little compost then thin the seedlings to around 10 apart. Plants should grow rapidly and, if you sow in late March, the first roots should be ready in early May and can be pulled when they reach the size of a golf ball. Trim off the long root and outer leaves, leaving the stem with a small tuft of leaves. Kohl rabi has a mild, sweet flavour, somewhere between a turnip and a waterchestnut, with a crisp, crunchy texture. It can be found in two colours, pale green and the less common purple and can be eaten raw, or roasted, steamed or stir-fried. Good varieties include the purple-skinned, quick maturing 'Azur Star', which has a good resistance to bolting, and 'White Vienna', a green-skinned fast-maturing type.
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What to do this week
Move trees and shrubs which are in the wrong position or have outgrown their space.
Prune climbing roses as soon as they have finished flowering.
Lift and divide congested herbaceous perennials.
Protect tender perennials that you want for next year by lifting them and keeping them in a frost-free place.
Lift and divide crocosmias and montbretias, as their display will decline if they become congested.
Continue your autumn lawn care by scarifying, aerating and feeding.
Reduce mowing the lawn but don't give up completely, mow when necessary to keep it tidy.
Fix grease bands to the trunks of apple trees.
Continue to plant onion sets and garlic.
Lift maincrop potatoes, choosing a dry day so the tubers can be left on the surface for a couple of hours to allow the skin to dry off thoroughly.
Continue to harvest autumn-fruiting raspberries and freeze them if you have too many to eat all at once.
Cut off deteriorating foliage on pond plants and compost it.
When the leaves start falling, rake them up and stick them in bin liners with ventilation holes in them to make leaf mould.