In this paper the powerful relations between mental health and nature are explored with reference to past asylum horticultural practices and to contemporary community gardening schemes for people with mental-health problems in the United Kingdom. Through the use of archival evidence, alongside contemporary voices of experience, understandings of the therapeutic and social dimensions to nature work are outlined and deconstructed. It is argued that particular discourses concerning the powers of nature (work) in managing madness and mental-health problems are largely consistent across time and space (from the asylum to the community). However, in the contemporary era it is particular types of nature work that arguably contribute most directly to state agendas for social inclusion, and therefore to securing the place of people with mental-health problems in mainstream society. By briefly profiling the voices of staff and `volunteers' from two urban garden schemes in England and Scotland, different experiences of garden work as `restorative' and as `interventionist' will be discussed. I conclude by evaluating how embodying and enacting gardening work act as a sustainable vehicle for new versions of social citizenship for people traditionally marginalised in mainstream society.