Earlier this year we supported Katherine Hathaway with her award-winning border at BBC Gardeners World Live Show. Katherine’s design, which centred around dementia and nature was inspired by her mother’s positive reaction to a vase of sweet peas. This got Katherine thinking; how could plants support people living with dementia by stimulating their senses and memories? She began to design a garden which featured familiar and nostalgic plants such as snapdragons, sage, thyme and sweet peas. We know from our own work that when people share their personal memories associated with familiar plants it often leads to discovering a common ground and the opportunity to extend the conversation further. This in turn helps people to re-connect with loved ones or create friends out of strangers.
We use this theme of familiar plants in our activity Myths and Legends, focusing on plants that have myths and stories that surround them. Inspired by the background and folklore of the plants mentioned in Richard Mabey’s book, Flora Britannica, we designed an activity that brings you up close and personal to some familiar plants such as ivy and snowdrops. Rather than providing botanical information about these plants, we gathered interesting facts and myths that surround them. We soon discovered that this got people talking, with comments such as “I didn’t know that!” or “they did what with it?” and “I remember my grandmother calling it that”. For example, did you know that September 14 was traditionally given to school children as a day off to go ‘nutting’, up until the First World War?
You can use plants in this way at any time. Take a moment to view the plants in your garden or on a regular walk, are there any familiar plants that could be used to inspire conversations? A little time spent researching on the internet or through books will highlight interesting titbits that you can use in conversation. To make it even more fun why not devise a short quiz for family and friends as a social activity that everyone can join in?
Find out more about Myths and Legends