Therapeutic gardening

The Healthcare Healing Garden

Within the healthcare setting, specific aspects of the healing process can be identified that will help to clarify how Horticultural Therapy and a garden environment can provide therapeutic benefit. The common thread of being nurtured by nature is throughout.

First, is achieving a degree of relief from physical symptoms, or awareness of those symptoms. This relief is significant in an individual with acute illness or trauma from which he/she is recovering, such as post surgery and pain management. A second form that healing can take, is that of stress reduction and comfort when dealing with the experiences of a medical setting. Where relaxation and a sense of well being are the goal, this is one of the most significant reasons to create a therapeutic healing garden.

One theory is that having a garden gives one the feeling, or perception of control within their environment. For persons who are ill, loss of the sense of control, real or perceived especially if hospitalized, creates much stress and adversely affects health outcomes. Having a garden also fosters social support for patients, family and staff, physical movement and exercise and access to nature and other positive distractions.

Two case studies of children’s hospital gardens asked the question “Where do people go when they’re stressed?” 95% of those interviewed reported a positive change in mood after spending time outside, from feeling depressed, stressed, and anxious, to a more and balanced outlook. The specific qualities helpful in triggering this mood change were elements of the plant world (trees, flower, colors, greenery, etc.). People also mentioned elements such as water, fresh air, fragrance and the sounds of wildlife.

In another study, 300 participants were asked to recall a time and place when they, or someone they knew, felt helpless, wounded, or in pain. Then to visualize “an environment that would be healing for that wounded person.” Every participant envisioned nature as a significant healing agent.

In recent years, the mainstream knowledge base has been altered by mind-body studies showing that psychological and environmental factors can affect physiological systems and health status.

In creating a healing garden in a medical and/or healthcare related setting, we can list the following advantages:

  • A reduction in stress, depression and anxiety, especially if the garden fosters exercise.
  • A higher reported quality of life for chronic and terminal patients.
  • Reduced pain in patients.
  • Reduced need for pain relieving and/or mood elevating medications.

This excerpt was taken from the book “Healing gardens, therapeutic benefits and design recommendations” by Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes.

I know that funding and adequate time for a therapeutic healing garden can be a factor. I also have a couple of alternatives, including the Mobile Garden Club and a courtyard-style outdoor garden as a resource for your facility.

The Mobile Garden Club and courtyard-style outdoor garden

I will come as a garden activity director, for a designated period of time and help people build and tend their indoor and outdoor gardens. We can work on crafts, decorating pots for indoor plants, making wreaths and potpourri are just a few examples of what can be made. I can give watering and fertilizer tips and discuss seasonal diseases and pest issues. I will show people how to prune and we can talk about nature in general. People can share their experiences, ideas and knowledge. The fellowship and exercise, even if it’s on a smaller level for someone perhaps in a wheelchair, can be extremely healing. Small outdoor courtyard-style gardens can be wheelchair accessible, have a table and chairs for a social setting or bench for privacy and contemplation. Please visit my website for ideas on design packages.

Possible garden-type scenarios:

  • For indoor gardens, materials that can be required are: Pots, plants, soil, garden décor, tools ie: gloves, pruners, small shovel, watering can, etc.
  • Outdoor gardens already installed, but needing renovation, materials possibly required.
  • Water feature, soil amendment, irrigation, plants, sprays and fertilizers, garden décor, bench, patio furniture, etc.
  • New outdoor gardens would be bid on an individual basis.

The Mobile Garden Club would need materials for the crafts.
If funding is required, we will try to make the program you are interested in work through donations or grants.