Tag Archives: ephemeral

Hanami – Celebrating the Ephemeral Beauty of the Cherry Blossom

The Yoshino cherry trees are blooming here in North Texas – celebrating the start of spring right along with us. Now is the time to get outdoors and enjoy their beautiful white and blush pink floral displays. And quick – check them out before their striking beauty fades, or you’ll have to wait another year before they bloom again.

eatbreathegarden_cherrytree_HanamiCherry blossoms represent the ephemeral beauty of nature, a time of renewal and rejuvenation, and, more largely, the fleeting nature of life itself. Also known as sakura, cherry blossoms are treasured in Japanese culture, depicted in ancient and modern Japanese art, and celebrated each year during the Hanami festival. Hanami is a time when people in Japan celebrate the bloom time of this magnificent harbinger of spring. Translated as “flower viewing,” Hanami is when plantings of various Prunus are viewed and enjoyed all over the country. This practice dates back to the 8th century and has grown in interest over the years. In Japan, cherry trees bloom first in the southern part of the country in March and last through May when the last of the cherries bloom in the north. Just like meteorologists predict the weather patterns, so-called blooming forecasters study the weather in order to predict the bloom time of the cherry trees across the country. (Check out a cherry bloomtime map of Japan here.)

eatbreathegarden_springflowers_cherrytrees“We Japanese can’t miss Hanami,” says Japanese culture consultant Motoko Ishihara Evans. “Hanami is just like a picnic under cherry blossoms. It’s a long tradition to appreciate beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. Even [in the] 16th century they enjoyed Hanami.” Families celebrate Hanami by picnicking, socializing, and playing games under the blooming cherry trees. Motoko talks about the eager anticipation and festivities of this time of year. “We eat lunch, under the trees. At night there are lanterns, and [we] eat and drink sake or beer. In Japan it’s not illegal to drink in public places. Some people sing. It’s like a party. Even children go to Hanami with snacks and drinks. We go out for Hanami with friends, family, and coworkers. All over Japan we wait for cherry blossoms in bloom.”

eatbreathegarden_springflowersHanami and the application for horticultural therapy practitioners

Horticultural therapy clients can derive personal meaning from this message about honoring the ephemeral yet beautiful nature of life through the metaphor of the cherry blossoms, especially through the example of Hanami. Though the cherries bloom for a short time, the Japanese people celebrate this time with their loved ones, enjoying quality time with one another. “Celebrating special moments, like cherry blossom time, can mark the cycle of life by using tangible plant material as a symbol for the annual passage of time or to evoke special, pleasant memories where the client recalls happy or poignant experiences and occasions,” wrote Margaret Shillingford, BS, MEd, and Lesley Fleming, MA, HTR, in their article “Cherry Blossoms, Symbolism and HT,” originally published in The American Horticultural Therapy Association News Magazine, volume 40, number 2.

eatbreathegarden_springflowers_cherrytreesIn working with clients, share photos of cherry blossoms and Hanami celebrations depicted in Asian art, day and night time celebrations of Hanami in Japan, and even the blooming Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (The 3,000-plus Washington trees were a gift from Japan to the United States, as a goodwill gesture, in the 1912, and celebrated during the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. Read more about it here. You can even watch the cherry trees in bloom with the “Cherry Blossom Cam” in Washington here.) Pass around cherry branches and examine the buds and blossoms. Reminisce about favorite seasonal family gatherings and celebrations. Create individual or group floral arrangements using cherry branches and other spring flowers.

eatbreathegarden_springflowers_cherrytrees
Client-created floral arrangements with cherry blossoms, daffodils, and tulips

More Therapeutic Horticulture Programming Ideas for Spring

My oh my, it has been a busy April! In honor of Earth Day, I am sharing more of my favorite springtime therapeutic horticulture activities recently done with clients. Check out previous  spring activities here. Hope they inspire your work!

Kentucky Derby Floral Crowns therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenKentucky Derby Floral Crowns
Fashion wire into a circle to fit your head and use floral tape to attach mini bouquets of cutflowers. Embellish with ribbon, feathers, wired butterflies and birds, and VOILA – you have a floral crown that honors the tradition of the fancy and whimsical hat fashions from the Kentucky Derby. We used a combination of fresh, dried, and preserved flowers and foliage. Since the Kentucky Derby was a couple of weeks away from the day of this program, I used everlasting flowers – which are flowers that hold their shape and color even after they have dried – so that program participants would still have beautiful headwear after some time had passed.

Kentucky Derby Floral Crowns therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenHere, I used purple statice, sea holly, baby’s breath (I recommend using ‘Million Star’ with its large flower heads – I think it’s the best variety of baby’s breath for drying), strawflower, red spray roses (the red rose is the official flower of the Derby), goldenrod, yarrow, and preserved & dyed eucalyptus. [NOTE: When selecting plant material, be mindful of the toxicity of some of these plants, if this may be an issue with the group you are working with.] Some participants didn’t want to make a crown so they made bouquets, floral arrangements, or mini wreaths. Don’t forget to bring a handheld mirror so that participants can look at themselves wearing their handmade crowns!

During the program, we discussed the traditions and iconic imagery of the Kentucky Derby – mint juleps (I brought sprigs of mint to pass around), the garland of roses (red spray roses were available to include on the crowns), Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, the fashions of the hats and clothing, and Triple Crown. I shared Derby-themed fun facts and trivia. Some sources include KentuckyDerby.com and Wikipedia.

Seed sowing therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenSeed Sowing
Seed sowing is among the most loved activities with my groups, and sowing sunflowers has become an annual event for one group in particular. I think many of the participants like to know that they are planting something so tiny for future benefits, as well as enjoying getting their hands immersed in soil – the phrases “play in the dirt” or “making mudpies” are often heard.

Seed sowing therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenOther reasons: they enjoy the social and collaborative aspects of working with a partner to accomplish something important, like preparing the soil, filling pots with soil, and adding seeds to each pot; the “romance” of a sunflower, which, aside from the rose, is the most recognizable and embraced flower with elder clients; and the change in pace of the daily routine – how often do you get to go outdoors to “play” or stick your hands in soil?

In February we sowed nasturtium seeds, which are the size of peppercorns, and this month we planted the nasturtium plants out in the garden. In March and April, we have been sowing a variety of sunflower seeds for succession plantings. When the plants are ready, we’ll plant them in the garden – hopefully next month. The larger seed, like nasturtium and sunflowers, are easier for many of my clients to work with than small seed. I typically save the smaller seed, like parsley, basil, and black-eyed Susan vine, for challenging the skills and tolerance levels of individuals who are higher functioning.

SpringWreathSpring Wreaths
Use various preserved mosses, wired butterflies and birds, dried florals, and ribbon to embellish grapevine wreaths. To help save on program costs, plan ahead. Therapeutic Horticulture Spring WreathI buy wreaths, ribbon, and other materials when they’re on sale. (I stock up on red, green, and other colors of ribbon after Christmas, when they’re 75-90% off at my favorite craft store.) Or, I use my handy 40% off coupons at my favorite craft store – though, yes, it does require going into the store daily and using the coupon to buy one thing at a time. I also use everlasting cutflowers in other floral arranging activities and save and dry these flowers for future use. Even better, grow and harvest plant material from your own garden.

Spring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenOutdoor Gardening
‘Tis the season to be enjoying the outdoors! We have been busy planting a variety of seasonal annuals, herbs, and veggies.

Spring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenSpring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegarden

Mini Blooming Pumpkins

Miniature orbs decorated with dried flowers…how fantastically “fall!” If you’re looking for some no-carve, no-Halloween, pro-Thanksgiving pumpkin decorating options, look no further than these season extending mini blooming pumpkins.

Blooming PumpkinsSupplies                                                                                                    
Mini pumpkins
Glue (Elmer’s glue works fine, but heavy duty craft glue works better)
Dried flowers
Scissors
Sharpie pen
Decorative tags, optional
Twine or wire, optional

Blooming Pumpkin

Step-by-Step Instructions                                                                
Select the pumpkin and the flowers to be used in decorating it.

Prep the flowers by removing stems and unsightly petals or leaves.

With the pumpkin sitting upright in front of you (stem pointing up), apply a generous amount of glue around the base of the stem. Don’t be stingy here – make sure to apply the glue all over the top of the pumpkin, right up to and away from the stem.

Quick note – whenever I work with glue, it’s important to constantly remind myself and clients that THE GLUE WILL DRY CLEAR. So don’t sweat it if you accidentally apply too much and it starts to run down the sides of the pumpkin, or get it on the “good” part of the flowers. THE GLUE WILL DRY CLEAR!

Blooming PumpkinWith the glue in place, begin placing flowers on the top of the pumpkin. There’s no rhyme or reason on how to apply flowers – just make it look pretty to your tastes.

Apply additional glue as necessary to ensure all flowers have glue on them. (This is where I like to use Elmer’s glue since the tip of the bottle easily inserts between flowers to provide targeted glue application. If using craft glue, use a cotton swab to apply targeted globs of glue as needed.)

Blooming PumpkinsKeep applying flowers, rotating the pumpkin 360 degrees during application to ensure even coverage of flowers on all sides.

Continue until complete.Blooming Pumpkin

If attaching a decorative tag, write a quick note or greeting, inspirational quote, your name, or whatever on the tag.

Thread the wire through the hole in the tag.

Attach the wire to the pumpkin’s stem and secure in place. Voila!Blooming Pumpkins

Notes for Horticultural Therapy Practitioners…                        
Aside from the changing colors of fall leaves, pumpkins provide a great seasonal cue to place clients in the time of year. To me, pumpkins represent autumn…and not just Halloween. I like blooming pumpkins as a season extending activity that’s appropriate to display all the way up to Thanksgiving. And, since I’m not able to easily use sharp knives or do pumpkin carving for safety and logistical reasons with most of my groups, this activity is an ideal option.

This is also an activity that can require more than one session for preparation, if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor garden to utilize with a therapeutic horticulture program. One session can include the planting of annual flowers and perennials that are suitable for drying. Subsequent sessions include the maintenance and gradual harvesting of these flowers in the garden.

And did you know that pumpkins float in water?!? Oh, don’t get me started on that…

Blooming PumpkinsContraindications                                                                                   
If you need to cut the dried flowers into smaller pieces, and you’re working with a group where sharp objects like scissors or pruners are potentially unsafe, here are a few tips to follow:

– Use child-safe scissors, not sharp scissors or pruners.

– Use flowers that are easy to pinch with the fingers. Be mindful of the level of the “ease of pinching,” in comparison to tolerance levels, for those who have fine motor issues.

– Pre-cut the stems off flowers and have them ready for use ahead of time.

Other potential issues:

When glue and flowers may be eaten by some individuals with cognitive challenges, use non-toxic options. Avoid putting flowers in bowls or other food-related objects.

Program Notes                                                                                         
Whenever I do this activity, I like to incorporate opportunities for clients to reminisce about their favorite holiday memories. So prior to doing the activity creations, we answer open ended questions about Thanksgivings past. For large groups, we break up into small groups and pass out pieces of paper with prompt questions. The groups identify a group leader and discuss their answers to the questions. After a few minutes, we gather back together and discuss the responses as a group.

Examples of prompt questions
– What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?
– What are you are thankful for?
– What is your favorite food to eat on Thanksgiving?

Prompt questions inspired by JournalBuddies.com

Budget Buster Tips                                                                              
– Grow your own flowers for drying. Harvest them throughout the season. Prep them and hang to dry until ready for use.
– Recycle flowers from old floral arrangements before discarding them. Baby’s breath, statice, and yarrow are examples. Whenever I do floral arranging programs throughout the year, I always use flowers that can be dried, and then harvest them from the old arrangements or leftovers after a program.
– Can’t afford pumpkins for each person? Get a handful of pie or Jack pumpkins, and have your group work in small teams to strategize and decorate a “community” pumpkin.