A SPOT of planting and landscaping has allowed patients’ confidence – and competitive streak – to blossom as they prepare to go head to head with other units across the region at the mental health services’ very first In Bloom Awards.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust has launched its own gardening contest encouraging service users across Swindon, Wiltshire, North Somerset and Bristol, to join in a hands-on activity out in the fresh air and transform previously abandoned backyards into fertile vegetable patches and eye-catching flowerbeds.

A dozen service users, staff and volunteers both at Windswept and the Victoria Centre have been tending to their gardens each week without fail since April in the hope of being selected for the finals round. They have now both been shortlisted for AWP in Bloom and will vie for one of a handful of awards against nine other teams.

The gardening challenge has proved a very effective confidence-building exercise for people suffering from psychosis at the Windswept unit in Sandalwood Court.

“It has been therapeutic,” said unit manager Judith King. “It is good for team-building and it has been good for boosting morale. And some of them even have a bit of a competitive streak. It’s really about making a difference to service users.

“We started off with a few garden tools, seeds and potting compost but now we have received many pots and seeds from the community.

“The main thing is getting service users out there and it’s also an opportunity for some people to carry on a hobby they had at home.

“We have made huge progress. There were no plants or vegetables when we started and now we are growing radishes, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber. We have one bed of wild flowers and hanging baskets.”

Windswept cares for people with severe and enduring mental health problems such as psychosis.

Judging will take place in September.

AWP donated £250 to each unit to start up their gardening club and buy supplies.

Volunteer and former patient June Stewart, 70, of Haydon Wick, has been sharing her green touch with service users.

“It has been fantastic,” she said. “We have taught people to do things they thought they couldn’t do.

“It’s a step towards getting them back into society.”