for some people doing a bit of gardening can help relieve stress after a busy day at work.
But for the gardeners at the Evergreen Nursery Project in Kirkcaldy it is a whole lot more – helping to teach them horticulture skills, improve their confidence and, for some, even it could even be a stepping stone on the road back to employment.
Established in the town in 1995, the project has helped hundreds of people over the years through tailor-made training structured around the individual. It allows participants to progress and develop at their own pace.
The plant nursery in Barnet Crescent is run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the volunteers, clients and staff grow a wide selection of bedding plants, shrubs and flowers which are on sale to the public.
Those attending help maintain and landscape the ground of around half an acre, which includes a huge greenhouse, community garden, part of which is set to be redeveloped into vegetable plots, flower beds, potting sheds and office accommodation.
David Ross, the senior instructor at Evergreen started off working as a placement officer with SAMH, before stepping in to take up the reins at the Kirkcaldy project around seven years ago.
“The best part of my work is getting to see people achieve what they can and when they can.
‘‘There may be not much else going right with their lives and they may be feeling really low, but they can come here and plant some seeds one week and come back after a week or so and they will have started to grow and they will see that every week and feel a sense of accomplishment at their work.”
At present there are 14 clients, or gardeners as they are called, attending Evergreen for one or two days a week and over the course of a year the programme will see around 25 people, with the majority of people staying for around two years.
Rachael Scott (27), started at Evergreen as a reclusive 19-year-old with a phobia of socialising, who hardly ever left the house.
“At the beginning I used to shut myself away and not speak to anyone, but gradually I started to come out my shell with the other gardeners and by the end of my placement time at Evergreen I was able to serve the customers who came in to buy plants,” she said.
“It was just a very gradual process of gaining confidence in what I was doing and taking things a step at a time.
“I enjoyed my time here so much that when my placement came to an end I asked if I could come back as a volunteer, and I have been here ever since.
“I really enjoy planting things and watching them grow, and it gives me a real sense of accomplishment to see a garden coming together.”
Willie Rennie, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and leader of the Liberal Democrats, who was invited along to officially open an Open Day last Friday, organised by Evergreen, said: “The clients, volunteers and the wider community clearly value the good work that SAMH Evergreen project does.
‘‘For many people with mental health episodes it provides just the right kind of therapy and supportive environment which helps them in their lives. I visited last year to see for myself the work of the project.
‘‘I wanted to understand the behind the scenes work and was delighted they asked me back to do the official opening.”