Horticultural therapy refers to the use of plants and related activities as tools to promote healing and rehabilitate people with special needs. The therapy aims to improve a person’s well-being physically and mentally. Known for its versatility, horticultural therapy can be conducted year round among a myriad of methods. While working outdoors in the soil and caring for plants is a key ingredient of this therapy, few activities are available for participants to work indoors when an outdoor garden isn’t accessible, for instance planting terrariums or using photographs to make a garden. Even though it’s winter, participants still can work on garden related crafts such as birdhouses and painting flower pots.
The practice of horticultural therapy has been proven over time with the documentation of therapeutic benefits of garden environments since ancient times. The positive effect of working in the garden had been documented by Dr. Benjamin Rush in the 19th century, as known as the “Father of American Psychiatry”. Today, horticultural therapy is widely used within a broad range of rehabilitative, vocational and community settings.
By employing techniques from horticultural therapy, participants are guided to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. For instance, to focus on physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance and endurance. In terms of vocational settings, people can learn to work independently, problem solving skills and following directions through gardening activities. All of these skills can improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills and socialization.
A plant-dominated environment that is designed with the aim of facilitating interaction with the healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active based on the garden design and users’ needs. These gardens are purposefully designed to address a variety of applications within healthcare, rehabilitative and other therapeutic settings. In addition, there are sub-types of therapeutic gardens such as healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens and restorative gardens. Some basic features of a therapeutic garden often included wide and gently graded accessible entrances and paths, raised planting beds and containers, and a sensory-oriented plant selection focused on color, texture and fragrance.
Do not have the space for a “traditional garden” ? Don’t worry !
You can enjoy some of the therapeutic benefits of gardening by substituting with any of the following :
– Make a small wooden box, like a sand box.
– Use cement blocks or bricks to make an area that fits your space for planting.
– Use window boxes, planters, hanging baskets, or any other container that holds soil.
– Construct a small greenhouse with greenhouse plastic or recycled windows.
– Choose plants that grow up, use stakes in your planter, and plant on your deck or balcony.
Gardening is motivational for the child and is great for emotional development. Children can learn about responsibility from planning a garden to watching the plants to grow. The process of gardening can lead to increased confidence, resilience and self-esteem. Besides that, with a meaningful family connection, parents can create lasting memories from sharing this gardening experience with their child and promoting communication skills at the same time.