Tish is the Nursery Manager at Cherry Tree Nursery in Northbourne. Cherry Tree Nursery works with BCHA  through the Ignite programme helping people back to work, through New Leaf’s horticulture courses at Muscliffe, and also with young people on the National Citizen Service (NCS) development programme.

The nursery has been ‘caring for people, caring for plants’ for 28 years. It’s a registered charity which helps people with mental health problems by providing meaningful occupation in a supportive, caring environment – for however long they need it.

The nursery produces more than 100,000 high quality plants each year to sell to appreciative gardeners.

Tish Borrowman has been manager at Cherry Tree Nursery for three years having been introduced to the project as an outreach worker while working for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.


Students from BCHA’s NCS programme came to us as part of their Social Action Project, a scheme in which they take part in volunteering opportunities which benefit local communities.

“We have a quiet room here, where anyone can go if they’re having a bad day and need some time out. When our NCS students were here, their group leader told me the room ‘smelled like a stable’ – and that was putting it politely.

“So the students took on the job of gutting the room and painting it – including a mural of a mountain scene on the wall facing the seating area. It’s very restful and the room is now a much nicer space.

“The students were in charge of the whole make-over and it was fantastic that they really understood how the room is used by our Volunteers. It was lovely to have them here.

“We also work with New Leaf, the social enterprise arm of BCHA. New Leaf runs basic horticulture courses at their site in Muscliffe which our Volunteers attend – they all love the site and the people there.

“The main focus of conversation is the kettle on the pot-bellied stove and the compost toilet – oh, and the endless supply of tea and biscuits! We keep in contact with the team at New Leaf and they come to our Christmas party.”

“At Cherry Tree Nursery we have around 150 service users – our Volunteers. Some are regulars and others are just here occasionally. The only criteria is a primary diagnosis of a recognised mental health condition.

“When the project was set up it was at a time when psychiatric hospitals were closing and the emphasis was shifting to care in the community. Some people don’t have good support networks and the nursery helps with that. It’s a hard world and a lot of support has been lost.

“Being outside and in nature – it’s the original mindfulness.

“Planting something is an optimistic thing to do, and that’s especially important for people with mental health issues.”

“Some of our Volunteers have been coming here for 25 years. But I should point out that therapeutic horticulture is just half of what we do. We are also beginning to offer the RHS Level 1 qualification in practical horticulture to a number of our Volunteers in partnership with Kingston Maurward College.

“We really want to open doors to more education and work for people, some of whom haven’t had the opportunity for a lot of education. And there are others who need to reskill after suffering mental health problems as they are unable to return to their previous work.

Some of our Volunteers are very nervous when they first start coming here. Being in nature helps. We also have two rescue cats – Magic and Maisie – who have a wonderful time with us and score the highest ‘likes’ on our Facebook page! They get fed far more than our vet would prefer and get cuddled all day.

“Three times a year we have big plant sales which have a great carnival atmosphere – come along and see what we do.”

Tish’s piece of advice for changemaking:

“Being outdoors in nature, exercise and mindfulness – they are all things we know are good for us”

  • £5 can provide art therapy, including materials, for one person
  • £30 would pay for a counselling session
  • £5,000 would pay for approximately 150 sessions
  • £1,000 will allow for a full Mindfulness course to be facilitated