Published: 24 April 2015
Hillcrest Growers
Being in contact with living plants is proven to be beneficial for many people, whatever the interests and abilities.
Just south of Exeter,  on the hills overlooking Devon’s  beautiful Exe Estuary is a commercial nursery producing a wide range of seasonable ornamental and edible garden plants for sale.

 All the plants are grown on site to a high professional standard with the numbers and range increasing each season as the demand grows.
Retail and trade customers are welcome to visit the nursery during the main growing seasons to see the plants growing and to make their purchases to take home, or for larger orders the nursery can arrange for delivery.
The nursery also grows many hundreds of plants to order, these are for the entrants in the local Britain in Bloom competition by several business’s and private householders in the nearby village of Kenton; this has resulted in some winning prizes for their displays created using plants grown at Hillcrest Growers. Hotels in the area have also used the nurseries plants to create stunning floral displays for visitors to enjoys. 

The description above describes some activities carried out by many commercial nurseries and applies to horticultural businesses based around the country. There is however another, important dimension to Hillcrest Growers because, other than the full time staff, many of the people actively involved in growing the plants and serving customers are volunteers who attend for several days a week due to a mental health issue they are experiencing.
The nursery is part of Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service that provides therapy, training and support to people with mental health issues. People are encouraged to become part of the experienced horticultural team that provides opportunities to learn and develop transferable skills that could form part of an ongoing program to realise their vocational aspirations and, if required progress to further skill training and employment.  

According to published reports based on health research data the number of people with mental health issues is ever rising, it is therefore important that horticulture is recognised, and valued as a vehicle / medium where positive outcomes can be achieved as part of a progression route for developing new skills and possible work opportunities.
There or many horticultural projects being run across the regions, each may have different key objectives, however they all have one thing in common, they are providing opportunities for people who need positive support at what can be very difficult and challenging times.
Working with plants can provide so much more than just a job, especially when combined with opportunities for developing new skills, interacting with other people and involvement in local communities along with the added benefits relating to increased social values and mental health awareness. This is why projects such as New Leaf need supporting.
Hillcrest Growers is based at Exminster alongside New Leaf Cafe, New Leaf Print, Wood Works and Clothing Works, these all form New Leaf: there is also Hillcrest Branch trading as a Social Enterprise grounds maintenance business.
More details for each, plus opening times are on their website:

Reported by Chris Allen  

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