Horticultural Therapy

Spring is coming!  Its arrival gives us a sense of renewal- time to get outdoors.  All of us have an intuitive appreciation for the outdoors.  Researchers increasingly point to the physical and psychological necessity of connecting our human well being with nature and the outdoors.

One of the more meaningful ways to get up close and personal with nature, while remaining near the home front, is to get involved in gardening.   Carrying out gardening chores like digging to plant, bending to water and stretching to weed, all help to improve our strength and mobility.  Feeling the garden’s textured leaves stimulates our senses, while smelling the blooms of old-fashioned flowers jogs childhood memories.  Most gardeners view it as an escape from the stresses of everyday life.  What we tap into is not easily explained, but those of us who garden know we benefit from the experience.  Sometimes we just sit down in the garden and say, ‘Ahh…’

Horticultural therapy is a time-proven practice.  The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times.  Yet only in recent years has horticultural therapy and interest in therapeutic gardens gained momentum.  What makes a garden therapeutic?  The basic features include accessible entrances and paths, raised planting beds and containers, and a sensory-orientated plant selection focused on color, texture and fragrance.

Adapt the garden by creating your own barrier-free garden through access by improved paving and using growing containers and other structures that keep plants and soil at a comfortable working height. Once the physical barriers have been eliminated, go on to adapt yourself.  Specialized tools and equipment can take advantage of abilities and “go around” disabilities.  Plants are the easy part.  Once the garden is adapted, grow what you want to grow.

Some gardeners like to grow some of their own food – certainly one of the more tangible rewards.  Others simply want a pot or two of colorful flowers to enjoy.  There are so many simple ways to modify a landscape and equip the gardener to garden forever.

Let’s face it; if we live long enough, traditional ground level ground level gardening will be increasingly difficult – period.  To stop gardening because of age or disability is the worst thing that can happen to a gardener.  With minor adaptations to the garden itself and a few carefully selected tools, anyone can stay involved in gardening and continue for a lifetime.