Therapeutic Horticulture nourishes the body, mind and soul through gardening activities and plants. It is used to enhance physical and mental well-being with the healing elements of nature. Over the years, Therapeutic Horticulture has become a popular remedy for many illnesses.
Today, therapeutic horticulture is practiced all over the world. And in a wide variety of settings like hospitals, schools, gardens, nurseries and residential communities.
In fact, therapeutic horticulture is effective for people of all ages. Especially, for people with physical disabilities. For instance, working with plants helps develop fine motor skills. Besides, it’s a fun activity for family and friends to socialize with the community.
Improved memory and hand coordination are also some of the benefits you could get. Although its common for the elderly, therapeutic horticulture is also helpful for kids! Indeed, nature has amazing restorative powers. What better way to connect with nature?
Whatever your age, therapeutic horticulture has something for everyone. An expert therapist can create a program to suit your needs. Therapists help define your therapy goals. Accordingly, they develop programs involving plant related activities to achieve goals.
What is Therapeutic horticulture?
In a nutshell, therapeutic horticulture is a way to provide therapy through nature. Naturally, this is done by gardening and general plant care tasks. Such as planting, digging, watering, pruning or simply spending time in a garden.
In general, therapeutic horticulture is used in a wide range of settings. For example, it is used as rehab in clinics or hospitals. Whereas, others may see it as a fun, social activity with the community. What’s more, you could engage in either passive or active plant-related activities.
Usually, participants perform gardening activities with the guidance of a registered therapist. However, simply taking care of some plants also helps. In fact, studies show that just walking through a garden or looking at plants has soothing effects.
Generally, a formal therapeutic horticulture program needs a trained therapist. A therapist will define therapy goals and schedule sessions for you. As a result, you can achieve therapy goals much faster and more effectively.
Although most therapists offer one on one therapy sessions, some also provide group therapy programs. Group therapy programs are popular in gardens, parks and other social settings.
Garden centers, clinics and related businesses work with therapists to set the therapy goals of their programs. The program length varies from person to person based on their goals.
What’s a therapeutic horticulture program?
Therapeutic Horticulture programs are created to enhance physical and mental well-being. They are designed to nurture creativity and stimulate your senses. Besides, it also enriches social life in the community.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide therapy through the healing elements of nature. Especially to people suffering from mental illnesses or physical disabilities.
Therapeutic Horticulture programs are popular in a wide range of settings. Such as healthcare, community gardens, parks and even correction facilities.
In a nutshell, a therapeutic horticulture program includes:
- Engaging in either active or passive plant related activities
- Guidance from a registered horticultural therapist
- Therapy goals defined by the therapist
Benefits of therapeutic horticulture
Therapeutic horticulture helps you learn new skills and regain lost skills. Notably, its not only limited to treating mental illness. Over the years, it has become popular and is used for a wide range of therapy treatments.
Today, therapeutic horticulture is widely accepted for its benefits. And its used in many vocational and community settings.
Some of the benefits of Therapeutic horticulture include:
- Better memory
- Enhanced Cognitive Ability
- Learn to work independently
- Improve communication and language skills
- Socialization with community
- Strengthen muscles
- Improve endurance, coordination and balance
- Develop problem solving skills
- Better task initiation
- Follow directions of therapist
Who is therapeutic horticulture for?
Although its common for the elderly, people of all ages join therapeutic horticulture programs. Especially for:
- Children with autism
- Children in rehabilitation centers
- Support groups
- Adults with autism
- People with addictions
- Blind, deaf or the physically disabled
- Senior citizens
However, you can also participate in a program as a fun activity with friends and family.
History of Therapeutic Horticulture
For thousands of years, nature has provided us therapy. Like many other forms of nature therapy, therapeutic horticulture has a long history. Since ancient times, its practice has been documented in writings. Indeed, it is a time-proven practice.
In fact, researchers believe that the practice dates back as early as 2000 BC. Moreover, historians have backed this data with evidence found in Mesopotamia. Which is the same as present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait.
Eventually, the practice spread all over the world. In 500 BC, the Persians built gardens to soothe and calm senses of their people. They used a combination of aromas, beauty and water features.
Likewise, the Egyptians made temple gardens full of palm trees, grape vines and fruit trees. Although these gardens were made for the wealthy, it was also used to provide therapy to its visitors. In fact, they used to prescribe garden walks for people suffering from mental illnesses.
In the Middle Ages, many plants were used for medicinal purposes. Moreover, most of the monasteries created therapy gardens. Ultimately, the goal of these gardens was to provide therapy to its visitors.
The past few centuries have seen the most innovation in therapeutic horticulture. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first to document its benefits. He was famously known as the father of psychiatry and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
His experiments with plants and people helped improve the practice. As a result, he helped many suffering with mental illness. Especially, by encouraging them to get their hands dirty as a form of recovery.
Followed by his success, many hospitals made therapeutic horticulture programs. Hospitals made gardens to help patients with recovery. Some hospitals took it a step further to create greenhouses on-premise. And soon, it became a popular treatment for physical disability and mental illness.
During World Wars I and II, therapeutic horticulture was at its peak of innovation. Mostly because of large numbers of wounded soldiers returning from war.
Therapeutic horticulture helped many war veterans recover from injuries. Besides, it improved their mental well-being by using gardening as a diversion from trauma.
The role of gardens
Gardens play a vital role in therapeutic horticulture. Drawing on its sights, aromas, textures and sounds, visitors are in for a stimulating experience. A trained therapist can help you achieve therapy goals faster and more effectively using a garden.
As you wonder through a garden, the plants stimulate your senses and enhance mood. After all, gardens are designed to provide an engaging sensory experience. What’s more, it’s a great way to identify your favorite sensory plants.
The wide range of aromas from colourful flowers and blooms will entice you. Gardens are very useful for treating people suffering from mental illnesses or disabilities. Especially for people with autism or dementia. Besides, it’s a great way to spend time with friends and family.
No matter your age, gardens are always a joyful experience. Just being outdoors in a green space has amazing effects on the mind, body and soul. Moreover, gardens attract local wildlife such as birds, insects and small animals. Indeed, this is what brings a garden to life.
Let’s understand the kind of garden activities that provide therapy.
Flowers are truly a miracle of nature. Just the sight of colourful flowers and blooms is enough to change your mood. Moreover, the various aromas and textures will stimulate your senses. That’s why floral arrangement is good therapy.
While arranging flowers, you will learn of unique ways to unleash your creativity. Your therapist will help you explore various bouquet themes. And the experience will surely delight you. Probably the best way to learn about flowers and combinations.
Working with flowers is a great stress buster. And it also helps you develop fine motor skills. Moreover, it also helps improve memory and self-esteem while being a creative outlet. Besides, it encourages socialization and gives room to improve communication skills.
An alternate to planting in the ground is to try container gardening. As the name says, the plants are grown in containers or pots. Usually, this is practiced in urban areas where space is limited.
Check out this vertical garden for getting started:
It allows people with disabilities to care for plants much easily than bending to the ground. Especially for people with autism or semi-paralysis.
Container gardening helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s an active therapy activity as the participant is directly involved in tasks. With practice, it can improve independent working ability.
Naturally, a plant grows from a seed. However, with propagation you can grow them from various plant parts such as stems or cuttings. Although there are many propagation methods, it varies with the plant.
Other ways include taking a rhizome division from multi-stemmed plants. Or tuber division of plants like caladium or begonia. Alternatively, you could also try stem cuttings to propagate plants. Another similar way is to place cuttings in a glass of water until roots appear.
From rooting leaves or stem cuttings, propagation is very versatile. And its something you could try at home with a propagation kit like this:
Caring for plants is a good distraction from negative thoughts and stress. That’s why therapists suggest plant-related tasks to patients. Such as digging, watering, pruning, fertilizing or transplanting.
Not everyone is born with a green thumb. But a therapist can help you with keeping the plants healthy. Understanding plant needs reduces stress levels and releases happy hormones. If you’re a complete beginner, its best to start with the low maintenance plants like these:
Working with plants can help people suffering from mental illnesses and depression. In fact, plants develop and enhance the flow of positive emotions. And they act as a distraction from negative thoughts.
In fact, simply watching plants grow is also therapy. As a seed begins to grow, so does your confidence and self-esteem.
Most gardens have a wide range of plants. And it’s a great way to explore your senses through a variety of plant materials. This way, you get more engaged with nature and forget your worries. As a result, you can destress while improving your memory.
As you explore various textures like leaves, flowers, stems and seeds, the gardens add an element of surprise. Aromatic plants like mint, basil, verbena, rose, jasmine and grasses enhance your sense of smell.
Just as stimulating is the tea plant. The wide variety of tea, aromas and flavour stimulate both your taste and smell. Notably, caring for tea plants improves fine motor skills.
Art and Creativity
Gardening provokes creativity. That’s why many people prefer to spend time in gardens to read, write, make sketches or other artwork. While it promotes creativity, it also helps you destress and increase self-esteem and confidence.
You could also create artwork using flower and plant pigments. This art is more commonly known as flower pounding. Indeed, a great way to inspire creativity.
A garden setting is a good place to make a plant press for drying flowers, leaves and stems. Besides, it’s a good activity to develop fine motor skills.
What’s more, most therapeutic horticulture programs also include print making. Generally, prints are made on paper using leaves, flowers and stems. After all, the participants can take their creative prints to be framed as a memory.
And if all these activities are not enough, then you could try nature journaling. It’s the practice of drawing and writing down your observations of the garden. Both the practice and a complete journal are vital for creativity.
As you admire the beauty of nature, the artwork is engaging enough to clear your mind and live in the moment. More importantly, it helps you notice the finer details of nature. With practice, it improves your ability to draw, write and observe.
Therapeutic horticulture is truly a miracle of nature. It provides relaxation and healing to your body, mind and soul. In fact, its practice is believed to date back to ancient times!
Over the years, therapeutic horticulture has seen huge improvements. Especially in the past two centuries.
Although it’s common for the elderly, therapeutic horticulture is useful for people of all ages. Besides, it’s a fun activity for family and friends to socialize with the community.
Lastly, we saw the wide range of activities that are done as part of a therapy program. So, which therapeutic activity have you tried before? Which one did you like the most? Let me know in the comments section below.
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