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In the Garden

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Healing Gardens

Prisoners, seniors, veterans, hospital patients and at-risk youth are just a few of the populations benefiting from horticulture therapy programs and therapeutic gardens throughout the country and world. Here are a few examples of healing landscapes and how they are helping people live happier, healthier and more meaningful lives. To discover more resources for healing gardens, visit Healing Landscapes.

Warrior and Family Support Center
Photo courtesy of Warrior and Family Support Center

Warrior and Family Support Center (WFSC): Therapeutic gardens help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues and physical injuries. Located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, the WFSC (pictured above) provides a safe environment for wounded service members to rehabilitate with their families following treatment at the Brooke Army Medical Center. The center’s therapeutic gardens include recreational areas that are smaller in scale to create a sense of security and resemble a homelike environment. Plenty of shade, seating and lush plantings promote rest and relaxation, while an outdoor kitchen and children’s play areas encourage socialization. The grounds also provide opportunities for physical therapy and exercise with a fitness trail, putting green and volleyball court.

Rikers Island GreenHouse program: Founded in 1989 on Rikers Island, one of the largest jail complexes in the world, GreenHouse was the first program to use horticulture therapy to help prisoners. Today, the program thrives, encompassing a greenhouse, a classroom and more than two and a half acres of gardens, all designed, built and tended by inmates. Through horticulture, prisoners work through various antisocial behaviors and mental disorders, as well as develop important job skills that can help them find employment when they re-enter their communities, reducing the rate at which former inmates return to prison.

Norma's Garden at the Gathering Place
Photo courtesy of Norma's Garden

Norma’s Garden at The Gathering Place: Therapeutic gardens are also found in health-care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Located in Beachwood, Ohio, Norma’s Garden (pictured above) is part of The Gathering Place, an organization that provides free programs and services to address the emotional, physical, spiritual and social needs of people touched by cancer, whether as a patient, family member or caregiver. The grounds feature winding paths to private gardens used for meditation and individual counseling sessions, as well as a large, open swath of grass forw support group meetings and gentle exercise such as yoga and tai chi to help rebuild strength and reduce stress and anxiety. Calming water features, symbolic wind-driven sculptures and sensory plantings throughout engage all five senses.