Quite a while ago I asked a few of our employees to write an article about something they were passionate about. I’ve been sitting on those articles since then (waiting to get this blog up and running). I”ll post the articles here over the next few weeks that came out of that request. I think you’ll like them… Dean DeSantis
Nature is but another name for health.
Henry David Thoreau
The therapeutic benefits of peaceful garden environments have been understood since ancient times. Rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans in the 1940’s-1950’s greatly expanded the practice of horticulture therapy (HT). Over the past decade many people have become aware of the positive benefits of human interaction with plants and garden. Today HT is recognized as a practical and viable treatment with wide –ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs.
Gardens designed to support people-plant interactions and human well-being has been referred to as healing gardens, therapeutic gardens, and restorative gardens. There are some essential differences among garden types that can provide clarity to their design and purpose.
A healing garden is generally associated with hospitals or other healthcare settings, and is designed as a retreat and a place of respite for clients, visitors, and staff.
A therapeutic garden is designed for use as a component of a treatment program such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or horticultural therapy programs and may be part of a larger healing garden.
A restorative or meditation garden may be a public or private garden. This type of garden employees the restorative value of nature to provide and environment conducive to mental repose, stress-reduction, emotional recovery, and the enhancement of mental and physical energy.
The benefits of a healing garden include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced pain
- Reduction in depression
- Less medication
- Reduced stays
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Increased job satisfaction
- Less staff turnover
- Reduced cost of patient care
- Good opportunity for marketing & PR
Research during the last two decades show that patients heal faster when they have access to nature. One pivotal study by Dr.Roger Ulrich from Texas A & M found that patients whose windows overlooked trees and gardens recovered faster than those whose windows faced brick walls.
“Isn’t every garden a healing garden?” is a question I am often asked.
Healing gardens are designed with the intent to achieve a balance between a plant-dominated landscape and a restorative, interactive, therapeutic benefit between patients, staff and visitors. All aspects of the healing process may take place in the garden setting.
Physical therapists may lead their patients on walks through the garden, while stroke victims may identify plants on both sides of their body. Recreational therapist may use the garden for bird watching, music or other social programming. Speech pathologists use the garden for cognitive and communication treatments. Children’s hospitals utilize play therapy. The horticultural therapist uses the garden to help patients increase strength and endurance, mobility, focus and memory.
The American Horticulture Therapy Association identifies seven key characteristics of therapeutic landscapes.
- Scheduled programmed activities
- Features modified to improve accessibility. Raised beds & containers
- Well defined perimeters
- A profusion of plants and plant & people interactions is essential.
- Benign and supportive conditions are identifiable. Plants are selected for disease and pest resistance, thereby avoiding chemicals. Shade is essential.
- Design for the widest range of user abilities.
- Therapeutic gardens in the hospital setting should be simple, unified and in easily comprehended spaces.
You can visit two award-winning healing gardens in Portland. The Stenzel Healing Garden at Legacy Good Samaritan and the Children’s Garden at Legacy Emanuel Hospital have been awarded the American Horticultural Therapy Associations Therapeutic Garden Design Award.
Brenda Knobloch is a Registered Horticultural Therapist.