Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition which affects movement and co-ordination. In Nicole’s case she has muscle weakness in her right arm, memory problems and epilepsy. Although only in her twenties, everyday activities which many of us take for granted require enormous effort and her medication sometimes leaves her feeling extremely tired.
Her family encouraged Nicole to come to Thrive at Beech Hill near Reading where she soon made friends with fellow gardener Carly, whom she had previously met at college. Thrive’s horticultural therapists help match gardening tasks to Nicole’s specific needs; for example regularly using the wheelbarrow helps to exercise and strengthen the muscles in her weaker arm.
Nicole’s pride and joy at Thrive is her own plot. This metre-square raised bed is entirely her responsibility and she has stamped her personality on it by painting the surrounding boards in pink, her favourite colour! With leaning posts at each corner which help with kneeling and getting up again, it is designed to give her as much independence as possible. Alongside the flowers she loves, Nicole also grows vegetables including potatoes and carrots – she has even built herself a wigwam style support for her runner beans!
Nicole admits that at first she was a little bit nervous about coming to Thrive as she sometimes finds it difficult to make new friends, but she really enjoys working with lots of different people and the sense of achievement she gets from growing plants.
“I like choosing what to grow and then looking after it all and I’m proud of my own plot. I enjoy gardening so much now that I show my Mum everything I have learned at Thrive and we garden together at home, although my Nan knows more about flowers than both of us!”
Helen is Nicoles Horicultural Therapist
‘I first met Nicole when she started at Thrive in Beech Hill seven years ago. She was a little bit apprehensive at first but her bubbly, fun loving character soon shone through. This helped her to make new friends quickly and along with her sense of humour and independent streak she soon became an established member of the Thrive family.
I’ve worked weekly with Nicole at The Vyne Walled Garden Project, a local National Trust property near Basingstoke, where she helps to maintain the kitchen garden and learns woodland conservation skills. Nicole is currently learning to cope with a change in medication which can make her feel extremely tired so at the moment she has decided to remain on-site at the Trunkwell Garden Project.
Nicole loves physical activities which can help strengthen her weak right side particularly digging and transporting plants. We work together to find solutions to the frustrations of her physical condition and she embraces the physical aspects of gardening with real gusto and a fantastic work ethic. She is very motivated and actively joins in as part of a team. I also love the fact that she gardens with perfectly manicured pink nails!
I believe the whole Thrive experience has really helped to shape Nicole into the well rounded, knowledgeable gardener that we see today”
We #gardentag YOU to tell us why gardening makes YOU happy, and to donate to Thrive today to help others like Nicole.
To donate by text, text THRI53 and your donation amount to 70070.
Here are examples of how your donation could help:
£20 can buy boots for a Thrive gardener
£35 can buy garden therapy starter packs including tools and seeds
£60 can pay for a therapeutic gardening session at Thrive
£100 can fund a recognised horticultural qualification