Various settings offer therapeutic gardens to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Among the places where therapeutic gardens are often found are vocational rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospitals, and botanical gardens. This type of garden has offered both psychiatric and physical benefits throughout history. One of the first psychiatrists to note the positive effects of gardening on mental health patients was Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Since then, it’s been used in many hospitals.
History of therapeutic gardening:
There are many therapeutic benefits to gardening, and it has a long history. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a prominent doctor and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence documented that garden settings were significant factors in recovering patients with mental illness.4 He wrote about his observations in several publications, including Medical Inquiries and Observations Upon the Diseases of Soldiers5 and A Treatise on Madness6.
In 1826, he published a book titled Garden Therapy that detailed how plants could help people recover from mental illness. His ideas influenced others, such as Dr. John Scudder, who founded the New York Horticultural Society in 1831.
The first U.S. Horticultural Therapy Curriculum was established in 1972 as a component of the Mental Health Program at Kansas State University. Today, there are over 2,500 programs around the world offering horticultural therapy.
Today, sensory-oriented, plant-filled and fragrant, these gardens may be designed for passive enjoyment or active participation. They may be used for relaxation, meditation, physical activity, social interaction, education, or group activities.
What is a therapeutic garden?
A therapeutic garden is “a plant-dominated environment purposely designed to facilitate interaction with healing elements of nature.” Interactions can be passive, such as sitting quietly in a quiet corner of the garden, or active, such as walking around the garden, touching plants, or playing games.
Therapeutic gardens are used for many purposes, including physical rehabilitation, mental health, psychological well-being, stress reduction, and education. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons, and retirement communities.
The American Horticultural Therapy Association defines a therapeutic garden as “an environment dominated by plants that facilitates interactions with natural surroundings.”
How to design a therapeutic garden?
Gardens designed for use by people with disabilities must meet certain design, materials, and location criteria. This includes ramps, handrails, curb cuts, and wheelchair access points. These gardens must also comply with building codes, zoning laws, and ADA requirements.
Landscape architects and nurserymen familiar with state or local accessibility regulations can plant a garden. In addition to specific regulations governing the size, shape, and placement of plants, many other factors are involved in designing an accessible garden. For example, it may require a different color palette, texture, scent, soundscape, or even taste.
Preparing an accessible garden may take months or even years, depending on the scale of the project. Some people hire professionals to help plan and prepare the space, while others do it themselves. Regardless of how you go about it, the end product will be well worth the effort.
Impact of the garden on a patient:
A recent study found that post-surgical patients who viewed trees out of their hospital window recovered faster and had fewer complications than those who viewed walls. Patients who saw trees also had shorter hospital stays, used fewer pain medications and received fewer negative comments from attending staff.
The researchers believe that simply looking at trees can help patients relax and feel better. They found no difference in recovery rates between those who visited gardens and those who didn’t. But those who walked around the gardens or sat in them experienced much stronger benefits.
In another study, elderly people who spent time in a garden showed improved mood and lower levels of depression. Those who merely looked at gardens from balconies also reported feeling happier and calmer.
Researchers don’t know why viewing gardens makes people feel better. One possibility is that being surrounded by greenery helps us focus our attention inward, away from stressors like traffic jams and deadlines. Another theory suggests that we’re more likely to notice things we’d otherwise miss because our eyes are drawn toward the green. Whatever the reason, spending time outdoors seems to boost our mental health.
Benefits of therapeutic gardening:
It is beneficial to work in a garden because it allows you to connect with nature, interact with others, and learn new skills. Depending on the illness or disability, horticulture therapy can develop fine motor skills, concentration, stamina, hand-eye coordination, independence, and control. Gardens can be designed to be accessible to people of all skill levels, and people of all skill levels can grow and care for plants.
How to build the therapeutic garden?
The planning stage of designing a garden is crucial. Sensory considerations must be addressed during the design process. This includes lighting, noise levels, smells, temperature, humidity, etc. These factors are important because they affect how people use space.
The planning stage of the garden design process requires careful consideration of the sensory needs of those who will use the space. This includes how much noise there will be, what types of lighting are needed, whether special equipment such as wheelchairs or walkers will be used, and how much interaction with plants and animals is desired. Sensory issues can range from visual impairments to hearing loss to autism spectrum disorders.
For instance, if you are creating a garden for someone with autism, you want to ensure there are no sharp corners or edges where he could hurt himself. You also want to consider what type of plants might help him feel better. If you are working with a person with vision loss, you want to ensure that the garden is easy to navigate.
How can the therapeutic garden be used?
A therapeutic garden can be used to provide a wide range of benefits. These include providing a place where people can relax, meditate, exercise, learn about nature, or simply enjoy being outside. In addition, it provides opportunities for social interaction among those living within the community.
Individuals or groups of individuals may use the garden. For example, some communities use the garden to provide respite care for elderly adults. Others use it to provide therapy for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Still, others use it to provide education for students with learning disabilities.
Some classes that focus on teaching skills related to growing plants may be taught, including how to propagate seeds, grow plants in containers, and cultivate herbs. Other classes may focus on teaching gardening basics, including planting, watering, fertilizing, pest control, and harvesting.
In certain cases, the garden may draw attention to the environment. This may involve attracting birds and butterflies, leading to increased interest in conservation efforts. Or, the garden may be designed to encourage visitors to become interested in local flora and fauna.
Watch: Gardening Provides Health Benefits At Any Age
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is gardening good therapy?
Peace and contentment can be found in gardening. It is possible to make yourself feel better in the moment by focusing on the immediate tasks and details of gardening. Many people find it relaxing to spend time around plants. Self-esteem is boosted. People often report feeling calmer and more relaxed after spending time in their gardens.
2. What do I need to know before starting my own garden?
Gardening is not difficult. However, it does require some preparation. Before beginning any project, it’s important to think through all aspects of the project. This includes the size of the area you plan to plant, the amount of sunlight available, the soil conditions, and so forth. Also, you should know what kind of plants you want to grow.
3. Can I start my own garden at home?
Yes. Many people choose to create their gardens. They may purchase plants from nurseries, or they may buy them online. Some people even choose to grow their own vegetables. The choice is up to you.
4. Do I need special equipment to grow my own garden?
No. Most people don’t need special equipment to grow their own garden. However, you will probably need a shovel, trowel, rake, hose, gloves, and other tools.
5. Will my garden attract pests?
Pests such as insects and rodents can cause problems in a garden. If this happens, there are several ways to prevent these problems. First, try to keep the area free of weeds. Second, remove debris from the area. Third, cover pots and trays with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Fourth, place insecticide sprays near the plants. Finally, consider using traps to catch pests.
Therapeutic gardening has been helping doctors for many years, and it’s proven to be effective. It’s helping many disabled people find peace of mind for a moment. So, it’s like a blessing to them. Besides, that’s also beneficial to the environment. So, there isn’t any way to deny its benefits.