Garden therapy – the best kind


"In life, as in a garden, you reap what you sow." – Nancilee Wydra

Usually around this time every summer, I get forced inside to avoid the heat.  Consequently, my garden tends to look pretty ragged until I get it freshly mulched in the fall. 

After reading this beautiful piece by Wenona Napolitano, I pulled on my garden gloves and got out at sunrise.  What a great way to


At left – this is my fall project – think I can duplicate? Nah, probably not, but isn’t it spectacular?




begin my day.

Nothing makes me feel better than being outside on a warm sunny day working in my garden. It helps me relax, gives me time to think and just makes me feel really good. For me it works better than meditation or yoga or even traditional therapy. The stress just melts away as I dig in the dirt and pull weeds.

index I love the anticipation of wondering what the flowers will look like and I get excited every time a bud blooms. It is such a great feeling to know that I had a part in creating something beautiful. At harvest time I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can put fresh food on my table and say, "I grew that," or, "That came out of my garden." I love sharing the fresh fruits and vegetables with my family and friends.

Humans possess an attraction to nature, a kinship. Being outside can create feelings of appreciation, peace and tranquility. Gardening can heighten those feelings. After many studies, science is starting to understand that gardening can actually improve health and well-being.

Garden Therapy, also known as Horticultural Therapy, has been implemented in hospitals, prisons, schools and communities. The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) defines it as "a discipline that uses plants, gardening activities, and the natural world as vehicles for professionally conducted programs in therapy and rehabilitation."

The benefits of horticultural therapy include physical activity, relaxation and enjoyment, skill development, creative expression, social development, psychological well-being, sensory stimulation and intellectual and personal growth.

Anyone can benefit from garden therapy, but there are many specific groups that can benefit tremendously from therapeutic horticultural programs, including those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health problems, senior citizens, those with drug or alcohol problems and juvenile offenders. Garden therapy programs can help them develop social, work and numeric skills and offer opportunities for social interaction.


The therapeutic use of plants is an ancient concept, though horticultural therapy as a profession was not established until 1973 by the AHTA. Many hospitals in Georgia have been using garden therapy to help patients for more than 40 years, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s Horticultural Therapy Program has been around since 1978.

In 2003 the Chicago Botanic Garden introduced the country’s first Healthcare Design Certificate of Merit program, which is a one-year program that applies the latest research in design to achieve specific health care outcomes.

You can reap great benefits from participating in local garden clubs and therapeutic gardening programs, or you can just immerse yourself in your own garden.

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