Skip to main content

A student’s personal journey using the healing powers of horticulture

Date: 26th April 2021

National Gardening Week (26 April - 2 May 2021) celebrates enthusiasm for plants and gardens and the joy of creating green spaces.

For one Askham Bryan College horticulture student, gardening has taken on a deeper purpose. Ben Gannon, who is currently enrolled on the college’s Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Level 2 Practical and Principles course, has found the healing powers of gardening, the benefits of helping others and the importance of personal well-being.

Ben said, “I was battling alcohol dependency and knew that if I didn’t seek an outlet to rehabilitate myself, I could lose everything I loved and cared for”.

Ben’s rehabilitation involved the guidance of Aspire’s New Beginnings programme in Doncaster which first led to helping with the upkeep, then progressed to being responsible for the upkeep of the organisation’s garden.  He studied an introduction to mental health counselling course and an online horticulture course and then secured work experience at Flourish Enterprises based at Woodfield Park, Doncaster. He volunteered in the park’s walled garden, and is now undertaking the development of the Woodfield 24 memorial garden and raising funds for its development. Woodfield 24 is a specialist provider of end of life care and support.

He says, “Taking the first step enabled me to embark on a journey towards recovery.  Gardening has been the outlet that has brought balance and healing.  Taking time to sow, plant, grow and nurture really captures my experience – with both my gardening and life. I am very grateful for those who have taught me and shared their appreciation for horticulture.  Christina Fox, my tutor at Askham Bryan College, has been a great source of knowledge and gateway to further my aspirations in gardening.  I hope sharing my experience with others faced with personal challenges know that there is help out there and that horticulture is one of many options that can truly help one’s well-being. You can heal yourself and also give back to heal others.”

Christina Fox, Course Manager for the Level 2 RHS Horticulture Courses at Askham Bryan College says, “Ben’s story is about hope and healing.  I want to thank Ben for sharing that with us and wish him continued success as he goes forward with what looks to be a very promising and much happier horticultural and garden design focussed future. Many of the adult learners join Askham Bryan’s RHS courses for similar reasons, seeking a career change from stressful jobs, having in interest in horticultural therapy, increasing their confidence to start their own business or simply wanting to develop their own gardens or community gardens.  They develop their skills whilst achieving a nationally recognised qualification.  They are often shy or lack confidence when they join but soon start to make new friends, share experiences and plants and go away much richer for their experience.  Research has proven that having access to a green space can help the healing process and we have all come to appreciate over the last year how important our green spaces are, but equally more important is having someone to share that with.”

More on Ben’s story 
For more information on Aspire and its services

For more information about RHS programmes at Askham Bryan College, go to

To donate to the Woodfield 24 memorial garden, please contact Laurie Smith, Managing Director of Flourish Enterprises at

More information from RHS about gardening and well-being

Back to all News

Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277