Mother Earth Living

In the Garden

Get down and dirty in the garden

Add to My MSN

Gardening with Disabilities: Horticultural Therapy

6/1/2011 5:49:28 PM

Tags: gardening, gardening with disabilities, horticultural therapy, mental health, mental disabilities, physical disabilities, Susan Hoysagk

Susan HoysagkSusan Hoysagk is a seasoned nurse who, when not busy "nursing it up," can be found gardening, experimental cooking with fresh organic herbs and veggies from her garden, reading, writing and rearranging her yarn stash.  

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination.  ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, "Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden: The Classic Diary of a Victorian Lady," 1897  

Born Maria Theresa Villiers, Mrs. Earle’s book is a delightful month-by-month account of her “wish to talk to you on paper about several subjects as they occur to me throughout one year” (p. 1). She includes seasonal gardening, health, cooking, making coffee, decorating, and many other interests laid out diary-like but chatty. She was blogging! (You can download a pdf file of  this delightful book via Google books for free!) 

Mrs. Earle has it right—at least in part. Gardening is a constant exercise of the imagination. But it is so much more and has been recognized as such even by medical professionals. Dr. Benjamin Rush (a physician not only considered as the "Father of American Psychiatry" but also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) was one of the first to recognize gardening as therapeutic. Horticultural therapy—using nature as therapy—is now a profession similar to occupational therapy. It actually dates back to Rush’s time, around 1812, and has continued to grow over the many decades. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), a nonprofit organization formed in 1973, is a “champion of barrier-free, therapeutic gardens that enable everyone to work, learn and relax in the garden.” Some of their techniques to help people with physical and mental disabilities include those I have blogged about—wheelchair accessible paths, raised gardens, container gardening, gardening indoors—and add adaptive tools for turning disability into ability as well as creating special sensory gardens using fragrance, texture and color.  

salad texture
Salads are for more than just eating. Textures are wonderful for the visually impaired gardener.
 Photo By Er.We/Courtesy Flickr. 

Gardening is not just for the physically disabled; it has been shown through many studies to help with mental health disabilities. Green-care farming (or farming for health, social farming and ecotherapy) is being used in the United States and Europe. This initiative uses farming activities (including animals, plants and the landscape) as therapy to improve  mental and physical health and social wellbeing. They are used for the mentally challenged, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, children with learning disabilities and older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, among others. Some of these care farms use organic and sustainable practices, which encourage a connection with nature and foster concern for our world while providing physical and social activities. Win-win-win!   

Meditate leaves
Gardens are also for sitting, relaxing, meditating, or just looking at the light hitting the leaves. Photo By Wonderlane/Courtesy Flickr.
 

Besides the act of gardening itself, being outside, being in a natural landscape, is also healing by providing beauty, peace, tranquility, solace and even a  place for meditation. Look at all the public gardens in the world! Is it even possible to go to one of these places of beauty and not feel better? Having a space at home is just as important no matter how big or small. Fragrance and texture are especially important for those with visual or hearing impairments. More on that later… 

Horitcultural Therapy snippets:  

1879: Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, builds its first greenhouse “to enhance a long tradition of horticultural therapy.” It  is believed to be the first greenhouse built in this country to be used only for the ill.  

Horticultural therapy programs were used to treat veterans returning from World War II and are currently used at some of the Veterans Administration Hospitals. 

Resources: 

American Horticultural Therapy Association 

Farming for Health

Friends Hospital 

 



Related Content

Feel-Good Friday: Beat the Winter Blues

The depths of winter are officially here, but with a few slight behavior modifications, you can beat...

Gardening with Disabilities: Designing a Garden for Accessibility

Getting into the garden for people with disabilities may require careful and creative planning and d...

Learn to Meditate Part 2: Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is an important aspect when learning to meditate. Find out how to refine your b...

Treating Depression Naturally: Find Social Support

Seeking out social support, whether from friends and family, a support group or talk therapy, can he...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 



Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.