Therapeutic Gardening: A Natural Approach to Health, Healing, and Recovery

Who would have thought that digging in the dirt could be good for the soul? According to a study by Dianne Relf of Virginia Tech University, “A view of trees may reduce the recovery time in the hospital after surgery by almost a full day. Forty percent of Americans find that being around plants makes them feel calm and more relaxed, a particularly valuable attribute in cities today.

Therapeutic gardening has become a method of recovery, both physical and mental, for Alzheimer’s patients, the physically handicapped, injured or ill patients, and troubled or abused children. According to the Methodist Respite Care Center in Williamsburg, VA, “All [of their therapeutic] projects use gardening and horticultural activities to improve physical health, mental health, expand recreational options and generally improve one’s health and well-being.” This method of therapy is reported to reduce stress, stimulate the senses, and creates bonds with nature and other people.

Brightly colored annuals, such as marigolds, impatiens and cosmos, are a few flowers of choice in therapeutic gardening to provide a sensory experience for patients. Vegetable and herb gardens are also planted and tended to add taste and scent to the experience.

Participants have the pleasure of tasting the “fruits of their labor,” plucked straight off the vine, or can take home fresh, fragrant herbs to cook with.

All in all, this new form of therapy provides a cost-effective, relaxing, and sociable way to improve health for many people, while providing volunteer positions for gardening enthusiasts who desire to give back to their communities.

Article by Emily Wallace for DivineCaroline. First published March 2010.

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Image: Rich Legg