January 18, 2024

Ninewells Community Garden

Nestled within the enchanting arboretum of Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Ninewells Community Garden promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyles through community gardening.

In this serene environment, horticulture is actively enhancing wellbeing, providing therapeutic benefits and supporting rehabilitation efforts.

In a post-COVID world, Ninewells Community Garden sought to develop the facilities to improve the health and wellbeing of Ninewells Hospital staff and patients, specifically creating a permanent, environmentally designed pavilion which reflected the Leaf-Room structure already in the garden, alongside the appointment of a dedicated facilitator.

The expansion aimed to provide high-quality, responsive outdoor services for staff who were and still are working in unprecedented states of anxiety and distress due to the pandemic.  In addition, the expansion aimed to support patients’ recovery and rehabilitation from COVID-related disease.

Mary Colvin, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Ninewells Community Garden said, “Our Natural Health Service is a concept that the Board of NHS Tayside had already embraced. It aims to show how greater use of the outdoors can help tackle physical inactivity, mental health issues and health inequalities.

“We were looking to create a space for contemplation and reflection for NHS staff, patients and their families and a lasting tribute to the extraordinary efforts of NHS workers, volunteers and patients at the centre of the COVID crisis.”

Although the hospital garden had been in place for many years, investment was required to bring the vision to reality.

Funded to the tune of £70,843 by NHS Tayside Charitable Foundation, the team was able to create a permanent, environmentally designed pavilion reflecting the Leaf-Room structure already in the garden.

The sheltered, semi-outdoor place was designed by Voigt Architects, Arbroath.

In addition, the grant funded the creation of the Ninewells Community Garden Wellbeing Coordinator.

Today, thanks to the funding and despite many unexpected hurdles, the Leaf Pavilion now stands proudly within the garden.   With its leaf-shaped roof reflecting the structure of the Leaf Room, the Pavilion was opened by one of its user groups, the outdoor yoga instructor and participants, in September 2023.


Working together for a common cause, the NCG Wellbeing Coordinator significantly raised awareness of the facilities and activities offered through the garden with strong, long-term relationships established across countless NHS Tayside departments.


Meanwhile, the garden is now home to a  range of popular wellbeing activity sessions from yoga and pilates to storytelling, arts and crafts and ceramics, which are enjoyed by patients, staff and the wider community.


Mary continued “By providing an accessible and inclusive environment, we are making a significant impact on community spirit, sparking new partnerships and friendships.  The environment we have created has proven health benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep and physical activity.  We are proud and delighted with what we have achieved here thanks to the funding from NHS Tayside Charitable Foundation.”

The Future

Looking ahead, the Ninewells Community Garden team aim to continue reducing the severity and impact on the health and wellbeing of staff and patients, either because of COVID or from working in a post-COVID pressured environment.They also hope to extend participation by staff and patients of all ages and abilities in accessible and inclusive garden-related activities and provide a comfortable outdoor environment that offers opportunities for quiet reflection.In addition, the team hope to build its evidence base, guiding future healthcare strategies in the use of gardens and gardening as a non-medical, social prescription.The garden is free and open to all, seven days a week.


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