Tag Archives: therapeutic garden

Celebrating Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, this month, we have been celebrating Mother Nature by getting outdoors and showing our gratitude in a number of ways. We have been admiring nature’s beauty and curiosities, noting our innate desires to connect with nature (biophilia) and the restorative effects nature has on us, brainstorming ideas of what actions we can take on behalf of our environment and other living things, and then taking steps to beautify our environment for ourselves, each other, and hopefully pollinators (if outdoors).

Check out the gallery of activities:

workingsoil_eatbreathegarden
Cultivating soil can be a sensory engaging and grounding experience.
wateringplants_eatbreathegarden
The act of nurturing a plant through watering and other gardening tasks can be a therapeutic activity.
plantedcontainer_geranium_eatbreathegarden
Limited on outdoor growing space? Plant container gardens.
hangingbaskets_eatbreathegarden
Or, plant hanging baskets to put on display. (Here, they’re waiting to be hung.)
raisedbed_eatbreathegarden
Raised beds elevate gardening activities, making them more accessible for gardeners.
transplantseedlings_eatbreathegarden
Pot up spring seedlings started from seed during winter.
AfricanViolet_propagate_eatbreathegarden
Don’t have easy outdoor access? Propagate and transplant easy to grow houseplants that brighten up the indoors.

Plants for a Cutflower Garden

Floral arranging is a favorite activity for many gardeners, especially in therapeutic horticulture programs. If you’re on a tight budget, you may not be able to buy fresh cutflowers for your arrangements. So why not grow your own cutflowers? This provides a great opportunity to utilize your outdoor space and enjoy the fruits of your labor that much more. (And…this gives you an opportunity to splurge on buying a bouquet of the “fancy” flowers to mix into your arrangement of garden-fresh flowers.)

Additionally, when the first freeze threatens later in the year, it’s a great time to harvest flowers from the fall garden and hang them to dry. For clients with sensitivity to the cold elements, use these dried flowers in a myriad of indoor crafts during winter and other times of inclement weather.

Now I think that you can cut virtually most plants to keep in a vase for at least a few hours. But I do have a few favorites that top my list. Here are a few plants that I grow in the garden and use as cutflowers, fresh and dried. Don’t forget to research the toxicity of these plants before incorporating them into your therapeutic garden.

(Editor’s Note: Check back at this article, as I anticipate updating this list as time goes on.)

eatbreathegarden_ACsunflowerSunflower

I often say that sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are the second most recognized flowers with my clients. Which is the most recognized? Roses, of course! Sunflowers are easy to start from seed, either in small pots or direct sow outdoors in the garden. For HT/TH practitioners, “go vertical” with the topic of sunflowers – talk about how they inspired Monet’s garden at Giverny and his artwork or watch time lapse video on how young seedlings track the sun’s angle in the sky, and more.

Hardygerberadaisy-eatbreathegardenHardy Gerbera daisy

So there are the beautiful annual cutflower types being sold at the garden centers right now (at least where I live), and then there are the slightly less showy, but still beautiful, perennial gerbera daisies that are generally hardy to USDA hardiness zones (7)8. Look for the ‘Patio’, ‘Garvinea’, ‘Drakensberg’, or ‘Garden Gerbera’ series. Note: these are a bit pricy in the garden centers. Invest in at least three plants, and if they’re hardy to your growing area, you won’t be disappointed. Their foliage is evergreen. Mine have been blooming their heads off since late February (probably earlier than that, actually!), and they’re still blooming in late March, with more buds setting.

Daffodils_eatbreathegardenDaffodil

Plant a variety of daffodil bulbs (Narcissus), with other bulbs like tulips and hyacinths, in the fall. Then harvest a few blooms out of the garden in the spring and mix with spring flowering tree branches like cherry or peach trees in your seasonal arrangements.

Iris_eatbreathegardenIris

An easy perennial to grow in the garden, then divide and make more…and more…and more…well, you get the idea. Cut the flowers or even the sword shaped leaves and put into bud vases. This is a great flower to “go vertical” with and share the Greek myths about Iris.

Coneflower_eatbreathegardenConeflower

This drought tolerant perennial is loved by pollinators…and in a floral arrangement. There are so many different varieties of coneflower (Echinacea) with interesting names like ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Coconut Lime’, and ‘Fragrant Angel’, flower colors and shapes, and growth habits.

Cockscomb_eatbreathegardenCockscomb

An old fashioned summer annual, cockscomb (Celosia) can used as a fresh or dried cutflower.

Gomphrena_eatbreathegardenGlobe Amaranth

Often confused as bachelor’s buttons (which is a completely different plant), globe amaranth (Gomphrena) is a great drought tolerant summer annual that can be used as a fresh or dried cutflower. I especially love ‘Strawberry Fields’ (red) and ‘All About Purple’ (purple).

Cleome2_eatbreathegardenSpider Flower

Spider flower (Cleome) is an interesting annual with a towering height. Plug it into the middle to back of a flower border. For some, it grows all summer long. For me in Texas, it fades away in the true heat of the summer. I like the lavender flowers and heat tolerance of ‘Senorita Rosalita’.

Aspidistra_eatbreathegardenCast iron plant

Don’t forget your greenery. Cast iron plant (Aspidistra) is a stalwart in Southern shade gardens or an excellent low maintenance, low light houseplant. Its strappy leaves are an excellent foil for more delicate flowers or mix with tropical flowers.

Fatsia_eatbreathegardenFatsia

Another option for greenery, fatsia is an evergreen shrub in Southern shade gardens. Its large waxy leaves are also paired well with tropical flowers or as a single leaf with a single flower in a bud vase.

Other Notables

Here are a few additional plants that make great fresh or dried cutflowers or greenery. Whenever I purchase cutflowers, I try to buy flowers, such as baby’s breath, statice, or Billy balls, which I don’t grow but know that they make excellent dried flowers if I have leftovers. To dry flowers, I cut the stems, tie together, and hang upside down in an out-of-the-way spot on a clothes line or herb drying rack.

Southern magnolia
Oakleaf hydrangea
Yarrow
Salvia
Russian sage
Sweet Annie
Sedum
Statice
Strawflower
Lavender
Rose
Veronica
Coleus
Baby’s breath
Billy balls
Sea holly
Globe thistle
Rosemary
Peony
Delphinium
Calla lily
Penstemon

Resources
Univ. of Missouri Extension, Drying Flowers and Foliage for Arrangements

Catherine Mix, Fine Gardening, Issue 132, The Best Flowers for Your Cutting Garden

Debra Prinzing (2012). The 50-Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local, and Sustainable Flowers. St. Lynn’s Press

The Guelph Enabling Garden – Something for Everyone

By Lesley Fleming, HTR
Photos by Trisha Muldoon and L. Fleming

Enabling gardens originated as barrier-free space for people with physical disabilities. The more current understanding—one that is less restrictive and more inclusive—is one where all visitors are engaged in the garden through programming, garden features, and plant selection (Diehl, 2013; Cooper Marcus, 2014). Enabling people of all ages and abilities to garden with fewer barriers reflects the evolution of this type of healing garden.

GuelphEnablingGarden_trishmuldoon
Workshop attendees enjoyed a garden tour showcasing key elements of the Guelph Enabling Garden. Photo credit: Trisha Muldoon

The Guelph Enabling Garden (GEG) is an excellent example of this newer trend. While hosting an educational forum in June 2015, with a program titled Horticultural Therapy Programs that Excite, Excel and Engage, the garden welcomed community members, horticultural therapy (HT) practitioners, and health service providers. The workshop included an informational session on nature-based recreational and therapeutic programming targeted to improving health, as well as a tour of the enabling garden, led by GEG’s registered horticultural therapist Heidi Torreiter. Demonstrating how effective a therapeutic garden can be for activities and programming of all kinds, Torreiter and co-presenter Lesley Fleming, HTR, delivered three hands-on activities used in HT programming, including the making of small flower bouquets, an active game to increase physical activity, and a meditation session.

Programs geared to a broad spectrum of groups and individuals are offered throughout the year at the garden. Horticultural therapy, along with recreational programs like Staying Well in the Winter, Soil Compost Water, and Sense Based Activity, appeal to wellness groups and people with visible and invisible health challenges. Delivered by professionally credentialed staff, the programs in this beautiful garden setting with its abundant natural materials contribute to the popularity of the programs.

Set in a public park and adjacent to several senior citizen facilities, the physical location of the Guelph Enabling Garden further increases access, particularly for neighboring elders. Collaborative relationships with organizations, including the seniors’ facilities, provide for designated planting areas, specific programmed activities, and a volunteer base from those who have participated in garden activities.

GuelphEnablingGarden
Raised beds at various heights help to minimize physical barriers to gardening. Photo credit: L. Fleming

The physical features of the Guelph Enabling Garden define it as one that reduces barriers to gardening. For home gardeners and program participants, raised beds at several different heights, hanging baskets, container gardens, wide and smooth paths, signage, and plant selection like lavender, spirea, and soft wormwort provide ideas for minimizing physical barriers.

GuelphEnablingGarden
The Spiral Garden at the Guelph Enabling Garden. Photo credit: L. Fleming

Designed as a circle that overlooks the nearby Speed River, the Spiral Garden  offers a venue for special events. Small enough for intimate poetry readings and large enough for wedding vows, it has been used for gatherings and group activities of all kinds. The beauty of the garden set beside the river offers an added layer of nature within the city limits.

Observing the visitors to the garden—children delighted by the fairy garden, people with mobility impairments moving effortlessly along accessible paths, seniors from next door digging in the dirt, a cyclist slowly pedaling past the mass floral display, a group of young adults with intellectual disabilities planting herbs with the horticultural therapist, tourists looking for zone 5 plant specimens to consider for their own gardens in Michigan or Nova Scotia—there is something for everyone at the Guelph Enabling Garden. It is where beauty and function merge for passive and active plant and human interactions.

Diehl, L. (2013). A Framework for Categorizing Healing Gardens. American Horticultural Therapy Association News Magazine 41(2) 4-6.

Cooper Marcus, C. & Sachs, N. (2014). Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces.

What Florists Know [And What We Wished We Knew] About Spring Flowering Bulbs

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat

Bursting with new life, spring flowering bulbs herald in the season of renewal. Recognizing beauty in each stage of growth, florists maximize the versatility of bulbs and use them creatively in a variety of ways.

Bare bulbs are architectural. Stacked as a mass or as a singular specimen, a bulb’s color, shape, and roots intrigue, particularly when presented in glass vessels. Bulbs can be purchased in soil or soil-less. Rinsing off the soil will offer the cleanest presentation and will not hinder sprouting. (Read more about bulbs here).

For dramatic style, place bulbs at the base of a flower arrangement. Juxtaposing blossom with bulb, soft with hard, adds depth and layers of dimension.

eatbreathegarden_daffodil_spring_bulb
Emerging daffodil flower

The crack of the bulb, when the greenery starts to emerge, is one of nature’s wonders. Whether it is a forced bloom or seasonal cycle, observing the bulb’s daily growth is life affirming and beautiful. (Read more about forcing bulbs indoors and forcing paperwhite bulbs.)

eatbreathegarden_allium_spring_bulb
Alliums

Blossoms from spring flowering bulbs — alliums, tulips, daffodils, muscari — are beautiful as cut flowers meticulously arranged or placed simply in a vase.

eatbreathegarden_hyacinths_spring_bulb
Fragrant hyacinths

The fragrance of lily of the valley, freesia, or hyacinths provide immediate pleasure and memories of springtimes past.

The many lives of bulbs…once they’ve finished their show in vases, bulbs can be planted in the ground for another chance at nature’s cycle, in growing zones where hardy. The carbon footprint of a bulb’s journey can be positive and renewable. Note: Bulbs used at the base of an arrangement are less likely to be viable.

eatbreathegarden_iris_freesia_spring_bulb
Client-made floral arrangement using freesia and California iris (alternative for Dutch iris).

For your own spring awakening, try bulbs in any of these renditions. Or consider inspiration from international bulb showcases: Dallas Arboretum in Texas, Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa,  Floralia Brussels at Chateau de Grand-Bigard in Belgium, or the Netherlands’ Keukenhof.

Bulbs planted in fall produce spring flowers. Bulbs planted in spring bring summer blossoms.

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses cut flowers for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers Co.

This is the third in a series of four articles sharing tips on spring bulbs. The fourth article will offer tips for floral arrangements.

Warrior Plants

[Note: This article was originally published in the AHTA News Magazine for the American Horticultural Therapy Association. In honor of the women and men who have served and currently serve our country, and Veterans Day, I am posting it here.]

I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so…heroic.

– George Carlin, in Brain Droppings, p. 100

Resilient, strong, tough, hardy, adaptable, vigorous – these are all adjectives used to describe someone who is a warrior…as well as to describe plants as botanical warriors in their own right. Some plants grow fully submerged in water or germinate from a minuscule seed, while others grow perched atop the tree canopy of a tropical rain forest or have thick leaves that help them retain moisture in the most arid growing conditions. Plant characteristics, such as their growth habits and forms, growing requirements, methods of reproduction, and other biological functions, play a major factor in determining how they thrive or fail in an environment.

Due to their adaptations over time and resilience enduring nature’s elements, plants are often used as symbols of strength, hope, and inspiration. For example, trees are often referred to as symbolic representations of strength and power with their sturdy woody stems, extensive root systems that hold them upright and steadfast, lengthy life spans, ability to provide shelter and food, and other qualities.

When horticultural therapy clients learn about how plants endure tough growing conditions to flourish, these observations can help clients find perspective about situations they are dealing with or give them something to view as a symbol of inspiration. Consider incorporating these plants with strong characteristics or names or that have historical use by mighty people into an inspirational lesson on building personal strength and overcoming obstacles.

GinkgoGinkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

A living fossil with unique fan-shaped leaves, ginkgo is a long lived tree with prehistoric ties. Its length of time on Earth and long life span has made it a symbol of resilience and endurance. In fact, several trees, including at least four ginkgos, survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima, Japan, and are still growing today. Note: Has toxicity if eaten in large quantities. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.

GladiolusGladiolus (Gladiolus)

In the language of flowers, gladiolus symbolizes strength of character, and legend even has it that gladiolus was the representative flower of the Roman gladiators. With its sword shaped leaves and colorful flower spikes, gladiolus’ name is derived from the Latin word for “sword.” Other plants known to symbolize strength include fennel, thyme, garlic, oak, and bamboo. Note: Has toxicity. Commonly used as a cut flower; hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Tillandsia xerographica air plantAir Plant (Tillandsia xerographica and others)

Epiphytes, or air plants, are resilient plants that grow on something else, such as on a tree or a rocky ledge, yet are not parasitic. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, they have special adaptations on their leaves and roots that help obtain their water and nutrients from the air, rainfall, leaf litter, and other nearby sources. Epiphytes include several orchids, bromeliads, ferns, and other air plants, such as Tillandsia xerographica. Spanish moss (shown in feature image), which is often seen growing in live oaks in the deep South, is not an actual moss but, rather, is a Tillandsia. Some grown as houseplants; Spanish moss (T. usneoides) is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

ZZ plantZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia)

The phrase “ZZ plants are E-Z” is true and makes ZZ plant a candidate for the top of any list of low maintenance houseplants. Though they are slow and steady growers, this tough houseplant has a high tolerance level for neglect. It does well with infrequent watering and in low light conditions when a light stand or sunny window is not available. Note: this plant has toxicity. Grown as a houseplant.

Osage orange Bois d'arcOsage Orange (Maclura pomifera)

Ethnobotanical researchers have described how Native Americans historically used the dense, tough wood of the Osage orange, otherwise called bois d’arc, to fashion bows. (Watch out for the female trees that wield softball-sized green fruit that plummet to the earth.) Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) and various species of serviceberry (Amelanchier), juniper (Juniperus), and cedar (Thuja) were also used for making bows, arrows, or totem poles by various Native American tribes. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

LotusLotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

The lotus is an aquatic plant that grows in the muddy margins of ponds and marshes. Its flower is considered sacred in Buddhism and Hinduism and is commonly used in imagery of rebirth and enlightenment in Asian art. Leaves and flowers grow from the rhizomes buried underwater in the mud and rise up tall above the water surface. In addition, its leaves are hydrophobic, meaning that water droplets bead up on leaves like drops of mercury and fall off easily. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.

Aspidistra Cast Iron PlantCast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)

As its name suggests, cast iron plant is the houseplant that is tough as nails – cast iron nails, at that – as its name suggests. It thrives in low light and with minimal watering. Commonly grown as a houseplant; also hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11.

 

Over the course of three and a half billion years of environmental fluctuations and catastrophes, organisms of all types have developed tremendous powers of regeneration. Some species, typically referred to by humans as weeds, seem especially adept at not merely surviving severe disturbance, but of actually flourishing in the face of it.

– Peter Del Tredici, Hibaku Trees of Hiroshima

 

References

Del Tredici, P. Hibaku Trees of Hiroshima. Retrieved on 29 October 2013 from http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/892.pdf.

Laufer, G.A. (1993). Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: Hong Kong.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. (2013). What are epiphytes? Retrieved from http://www.selby.org/about/what-are-epiphytes.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2013). Biology of Plants: Plant Adaptations. Retrieved from http://www.mbgnet.net/bioplants/adapt.html.

University of Michigan – Dearborn. (2013). Native American Ethnobotany Database. Retrieved from http://herb.umd.umich.edu/.

Tips to Engage Elder Clients in the Outdoor Garden during a Therapeutic Horticulture Activity

Taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather, I have been bringing my elder groups outdoors as much as possible lately. We have been busy gardening in raised beds and sowing seed.

The act of going outdoors can be a bit challenging sometimes. I work mostly in residential facilities and find that some individuals aren’t inclined to go outdoors, even if they are physically and medically able. Some prefer to stay indoors where they feel more comfortable. At one of my client locations, residents are less inclined to go outdoors if they see a waving flag on the flagpole just outside the main hall window. Regardless of the time of year, they naturally think that it must be “cold out there.” So in these circumstances, I employ different strategies to gently encourage clients outdoors.

It is my goal to have clients choose to come outside into the garden with us. And not be taken there. Sometimes I am able to monitor this, sometimes not.

And when clients arrive in the garden, I encourage everyone to get involved, in one way or another. Some people have no interest in working directly at the garden beds. However, they may be enticed to work at tables or other areas adjacent to the garden. As a result, I have employed the following methods to engage clients wherever they choose to be.

Getting Outdoors

FebMar2015 672Extend the olive branch. When approaching individuals before a session, I often bring a flowering plant, colorful watering can, a package of seed (which I often shake when entering the room and talking with people), or other visually interesting object with me and use that as a physical invitation to join the group outdoors. They can get an idea of the task at hand, with the visual and the verbal reinforcing each other.

Be descriptive about today’s activity. As necessary, I elaborate on the activity and use descriptive language to outline the Who, What, When, Where, and Why – the people who are involved, what tasks we intend to accomplish and why, the plants to be worked with, a description of today’s weather and seasonal interests, and so on. Outline the role that you hope they will fill in helping the group achieve the specific goal.

Provide reassurance of assistance. Reassure hesitant individuals that there are others there to help – this reassurance is essential for those who may not have prior gardening experience or lack the confidence to participate. So I might say, “Here [offering the individual the desirable object used as a physical invite], would you like to help us in the garden? We could really use your help and support. We’re getting our garden open for the spring, and I would appreciate your help to plant these beautiful geraniums.” I respond with additional information as necessary.

Therapeutic Horticulture - Tips for Engaging Elders in the Outdoor GardenStill hesitant? “Come and keep us company.” For some, just getting outside is an accomplishment. A simple invitation to “just come and sit with us” is often the trick to entice someone outdoors. And more often than not, these individuals see others having fun and doing different tasks, and then want to participate themselves. Or, they simply do just want to come and sit with the group. And I’m grateful for that too.

If at first you don’t succeed…loop back around. After bringing others outdoors, go back and check in with individuals who originally didn’t want to go outside. They might want to come outside now that they see everyone else out there!

Sometimes there are individuals who can’t be enticed outdoors, no matter what you do or say. With the nature and goals of my programs, that is ok. I respect each individual’s right to make that choice. And, during my next visit, I will extend the same invitation and hope they will come then.

Once Outdoors

So clients have made the decision to join us outdoors. Since I like to give them the ability to make choices about what they can do while outside, I prepare additional activities when appropriate, aside from planting or tending directly to the garden. Some clients don’t want to do those activities, so I strategize about other relevant tasks and make these alternatives available. (Note: I have agency staff and volunteers assist during sessions and employ these strategies when practical.)

Therapeutic Horticulture - tips on engaging elder clients outdoors - sowing seedSowing seed – Think ahead and plan for future plantings. Have clients work together at a table to prepare soil and plant seeds for future gardening activities.

Grooming plants – Show clients how to deadhead and groom plants that are to be or already are planted in the garden. Engage them in conversation and encourage them to make observations about the plants being tended and the garden itself.

Organizing and cleaning pots – When planting, I hand empty pots to clients who love organizing or appreciate a challenge. Organizing and stacking pots is like working a puzzle, so make sure to provide encouragement and direction as appropriate.

Therapeutic Horticulture - tips on engaging elders outdoorsWatering plants or filling up the birdbath – Some individuals view working with water as less “dirty” or easier than other gardening activities. I see it as another opportunity for sensory stimulation, social interaction (working in partnership with those who are planting), and working motor skills.

Therapeutic Horticulture - Tips on Engaging Elders in the Outdoor GardenTouring the garden and making observations – Some individuals want to enjoy the sunshine and walk around the garden. Or some clients are agitated and don’t want to be around people. If possible, make an assignment to locate a favorite plant or see how the bird’s nest full of eggs is progressing, and have a friend or staff member go with that person to explore together. Jot observations in a notebook or pick a flower to tuck behind your ear.

Horticulture and Health

I am thrilled to host our first guest post from Lesley Fleming, MA, HTR. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who has worked with elder, youth, veteran, rehab, and inmate populations through her private practice in Florida. She served as editor-in-chief of the AHTA News Magazine, a publication for the members of the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), and is a former AHTA board member. Lesley continues to be a prolific and passionate writer and public speaker on a variety of horticultural therapy and people-plant related topics. Here, in her eat|breathe|garden guest post, she addresses the benefits of nature and horticultural activities on human health and wellbeing. Enjoy!

____________________________________________________

By Lesley Fleming, MA, HTR
Cover photo: L. Fleming

How does horticulture impact human health?
HandholdingfernHorticulture, defined as the art and science of cultivating flowers, vegetables, ornamental plants, and fruit, can encompass a wide ranging variety of activities that can span all of the health domains: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual. Health practitioners from across disciplines shed light on the scope of impact horticultural elements can have on human health and well-being. Substantiated by a growing body of evidence, both anecdotal and empirical, society seems intrigued by connections between horticulture and health in our current technology-heavy lifestyle.

What are some of the connections between horticulture and health?

The healing power of natureVis Medicatrix Naturae concept attributed to Hippocrates, refers to healing powers of nature (including horticulture), as a guiding principle for human health and medicine. Ecotherapy, ecopsychology and nature-based therapies are emerging as viable treatment approaches. Rooted in what E.O. Wilson emphasized as the biophilic need for humans to connect to the natural world, these nature-based therapies are often mentioned as antidotes to society’s increasing reliance on technology, environmental decline, increasing mental health issues, and low levels of contact with nature. Environmental psychologist Stephan Kaplan’s 1995 research on the restorative benefits of nature have been embraced by many in the medical and therapeutic communities and are the basis of attention restoration therapies used for treating many patients, especially those dealing with cancer.

Physiological benefits from plants and gardening – Research continues to demonstrate the health benefits from growing, being near, and even breathing in fragrances from plants. Research conducted by Qing Li, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo has provided data that blood pressure, cortisol levels and NK (cancer fighting) activity can be improved through ‘forest breathing,’ where aromatic compounds called phytoncides release chemicals that when breathed in, can improve physical well-being. Research published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society suggests that walking a reflexology path, which stimulates the feet’s pressure points, can improve blood pressure when done on a regular basis. Smelling lavender and rosemary can address the body’s ability to fight disease and decrease levels of cortisol. Research continues to explain other physiological benefits from plants and gardening activities.

The emergence of gardens in healthcare settings – Gardens in hospitals have a long history dating back thousands of years. In the last 15 years, more and more healthcare facilities have integrated green spaces into their physical facilities. In part responding to the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals Organization’s 1999 report calling for opportunities for patients and visitors to connect with nature, as well as a response to client-based preferences for views of, and access to plants, both of these reflect Ulrich’s (1984) research conducted in a hospital setting where patients with views of nature had faster recovery time.

Social movements rooted in gardening activities – These include community and school gardens, World War II victory and allotment gardens, permaculture communities, community social agriculture (CSA), fair trade, poverty and social justice concerns, social groups–garden clubs, master gardeners, 4-H, Future Farmers of America clubs, and high school environmental clubs, to name a few. Often correlated to food security, social movements involving gardening activities have been able to sustain themselves because they address a basic human need—growing food—while providing social, educational, recreational, and political connectors.

Horticultural therapy and other treatment modalities – including recreation, physical, occupational, and eco- therapy have incorporated gardening and plant-based activities (assessment and treatment) into their disciplines. Though the historical roots of gardening for rehabilitation can be traced back to the 1800s, the popularity of therapeutic practices using horticultural activities has dramatically grown in the last decade and a half. Newer approaches like nature-based therapies (NBT), ecopyschology, and wilderness therapy have broadened how nature and horticulture are used to improve human well-being and target specific health deficits.

Veteran to farmer programming – Integrating vocational, therapeutic, educational, social enterprise, and rural community restructuring elements into innovative programs for those transitioning from military to civilian life, it is the connection between horticulture and health that has spurred the development of alternative approaches for addressing the mental, physical, social, and economic challenges faced by Post 9/11 soldiers. Likened to European care farms, this hybrid model of social, vocational, and health programming has as its core value, connecting human to nature. Few of those who have initiated veteran to farmer programs use terms like horticultural therapy or therapeutic outcomes to describe their programs or the changes observed in participating veterans, but this is another example of how horticulture (one aspect of nature) connects to human health. (The author’s research, titled “Veteran to Farmer Programs: An Emerging Nature-Based Programming Trend” was published in 2015 in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 25 (1) pp.27-48. )

In summary
The positive health outcomes attributed to contact with nature, specifically horticulture, continue to be recognized and validated through empirical research in a wide array of health disciplines. Linking horticulture to health – be it through treatment, social engagement, improved nutrition, garden design, or other – speaks to the impact plant-based activity can have in all health domains. The sense of hope for cancer patients growing their own healthy food, reduced recidivism rates for incarcerated individuals who participate in horticultural therapy programs, greater parent involvement in their children’s school gardens, active aging populations who socialize at community gardens—all serve as examples. No longer relegated to the narrow category of fiber, food, or medicine, plants and their related plant-based health services broaden the scope of impact horticulture is having on human health and well-being.

References
Atsumi, T, and K Tonosaki (2007). Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Psychiatry Research 2007; 150:89–96.

Farmer Veteran Coalition (2014a). About Us. http://www.farmvetco.org/about-us

Fleming, L. (2015). Veteran to farmer programs: An emerging nature-based programming trend. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 25(1) 27-48.

Grahn, P. et al. (2010). Using affordances as a health promoting tool in a therapeutic garden. In C. Ward Thompson, S. Bell & P. Aspinall (Eds.), Innovative research in landscape and health (pp.116-154). London: Taylor & Francis.

Hiroshi, H. (1998) “On Vis medicatrix naturae and Hippocratic Idea of Physis” Memoirs of School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Kanazawa University 22:45-54 http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/199907/000019990799A0162403.php

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefit of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15(3), 169-182.

Li, F., Fisher, J. & Harmer, P. (2005). Improving physical function and blood pressure in older adults through cobblestone mat walking: A randomized trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 53(8), 1305-1312.

Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 1984; 224:420–21.

Wilson, E.O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.