Creative residents at a Dorset dementia care home have celebrated the importance and beauty of trees in a fun, hands-on seasonal nature project.
Over two months, tree-lovers who live in Colten Care’s The Aldbury in Poole gathered and prepared fallen leaves as natural decorations to ‘dress’ the cherry, apple, oak and maple trees in the home’s gardens and courtyard.
In arts and craft sessions, the leaves were dried and carefully painted with a gentle, water-based solution to restore their colour and lustre.
They were then mounted on hessian bunting ready to hang between branches and across the open spaces outdoors.
Accompanying the leaf decorations, residents made bird feeders with a mix of seeds, gelatine, hot water and cookie cutters.
The inspiration for the project was the annual Tree Dressing Day, which takes place in different countries in December as autumn gives way to winter.
Its aim is to encourage us to value and care for trees and recognise how they support the environment.
Melissa Siat, Companionship Team member at The Aldbury, said: “We asked residents how our trees should be decorated and they opted to handpick fallen leaves.
“We began gathering the leaves in October. Residents enjoyed going for autumn strolls in the garden while choosing the brightest leaves to use for the bunting.
“People’s interest continued through the craft sessions in our summerhouse and inside the home and of course when we finally put up the decorations.
“It has been a wonderful project that everyone has enjoyed – environmentally friendly, fun, social, sensory and it has brought our Aldbury Community together.”
Resident Valerie Short said:
“We wanted to keep the decorations as natural as possible and avoid using any plastic and paper. Our trees want to look as natural as they can be, decorated with their own fallen leaves.”
Fellow resident Joyce Holden said:
“I loved painting real leaves and found it very relaxing and therapeutic. Our cherry tree leaves had particularly beautiful autumn colours.”
The end of the project was celebrated with a singalong session and hot chocolate all round in the garden’s Winter Café coupled with a tour of the newly installed artworks.
Among the key messages of Tree Dressing Day is that trees improve the quality of our air, brighten our environment and support wildlife ecosystems.