Wildflowers for wellbeing? Green-fingered citizen scientists sought for UK study – and to help NHS hospitals bloom

  • National Botanic Garden of Wales teams up with Swansea University for biggest study of its kind
  • 2,000 citizen scientists to be sent free seeds to grow wildflowers at home and, once flowered, asked to gather ‘new’ seeds for planting on at NHS hospitals
  • Researchers to study wellbeing benefits of gardening, volunteering and community in the Growing Together project

A bunch of amateur gardeners from across the UK is needed for a new research project looking at the benefits of growing plants, volunteering and online communities – and NHS hospitals will end up blooming from it too.

In the biggest study of its kind ever undertaken, the National Botanic Garden of Wales will send free seeds to 2,000 volunteers to nurture and grow wildflowers this summer. Once the plants have blossomed, the citizen scientists will be asked to turn ‘gatherers’ and collect all their seeds. These will then be planted at NHS hospitals and clinics next summer for patients, staff and visitors to enjoy.

Participants will be invited to join a Growing Together online community, offering growing and wellbeing tips, and advice on how to convert their outdoor spaces into wildlife havens.

Researchers from Swansea University will look at how the hat-trick of gardening, volunteering and being part of a ‘community’, over a full growing season, benefits mental health. This is the first time all three have been studied together on such a large scale.

No horticultural expertise or large garden is required – each grow-at-home kit will come with full instructions, and a window box, patio container or tiny flower patch, is all you need to get started. The Growing Together kit also includes paid-for envelopes for participants to post their harvested seeds back to the Botanic Garden, so it won’t cost anything to take part.

Volunteers will be asked to complete three 10-minute questionnaires over the duration of the project.

Botanic Garden project officer, Kathryn Thomas says:

“Our ‘Growing Together’ project is going to be a great way for people to contribute to an important research study, whilst growing some beautiful wildflowers. We are looking for people from all walks of life to take part – you don’t even need a garden! And we’ve selected the plants for colour, of varying height and flowering times for maximum interest, including poppies, cornflowers and corncockles, which were common in the countryside but are now a rare sight.”

Swansea University’s Dr Luke Jefferies, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology & Mental Health, says: “As a psychologist I am very interested in exploring ways of enhancing the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment. What is exciting is this study is focused on wellbeing in its broadest sense and for everyone. It combines gardening, volunteering and the role of online communities, and that mix is very special. We’ll also be able to measure wellbeing over an entire growing season.”

More information on how to take part in the Growing Together project can be found here. Participants must be mainland UK residents and aged 18+, no other exclusions apply for this research. Please register your interest by 11 April 2021. If you’d like to register via post, please contact the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, SA32 8HG

Last year, during the first Covid lockdown over 1,600 National Botanic Garden of Wales volunteers grew meadow wildflowers for Swansea Bay NHS to lift their own spirits and bring cheer to the community.