Experience teaches us that gardening is (or can be) a therapeutic activity, but we gardeners are sometimes apt to forget that the
benefits of gardening long outlast the act itself. That is, once the trowels and rakes have been put away, and after the watering day is past, the garden calls us back into itself and becomes our retreat -- our protection against the noise and stress of modern life. In short, the garden -- if designed properly -- becomes our own personal paradise.
It is interesting to note that the etymology of the word 'paradise' traces its origin back to the dry, harsh desert lands of Persia. Pairidaeza literally means a wall of protection around the hearth or home (Beckwith and Gilster, 1977). One can easily imagine the need for such in environments like ours: respite and refuge from the fierce dry winds and other wild powers of the desert.
Horticultural therapy is now considered to be a legitimate form of therapy in the mental health and healthcare professions with associations in the United States (AHTA), Canada (CHTA), Japan (JHTS), United Kingdom (Thrive), and Australia (HTAV). Studies have actually shown that gardeners experience similar brain wave states of consciousness that the ancient art of meditation brings. This is the case for both the physical activity of gardening as well as the mere appreciation of the
space of gardens. In other words, scientific study now suggests what we gardeners have known all along: gardening and gardens have the power to actually improve human well-being. In fact, studies even suggest that not only do gardens improve our mental and spiritual states, but physical wounds actually heal faster when patients are in proximity to gardens.
As Henry David Thoreau said, "Nature is but another name for health..."
The act and art of gardening harkens back to practices that attempt to recreate dynamic places found in the wild world -- rejuvenating springs, sacred groves and other natural power places. Although such places often connote the mystical and mysterious, there is something quite (literally) down to earth about all this: well planned gardens lure us outside, into the sun and shade. They invite us to engage our senses in ways that help us reconnect our bodies with the land upon which we live and depend. When we tend to our plants, when we take the time to enjoy the color, smell and texture of flowers and soil, when we listen to the songbirds that visit because the garden is there, we are brought closer to ourselves, to each other and to the elemental world. In this way, gardens become much more than something that will raise the value of land and property. They become healing gardens, places with the power to assuage the chronic tensions of everyday life.
Come in and let us help you design your healing garden.
Margarette E Beckwith and Susan D. Gilster, "The Paradise Garden: A Model Garden Design for Those with Alzheimer's Disease" in Horticultural Therapy and the Older Adult Population by the American Horticultural Therapy Association.
Healing Gardens : Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations (Wiley Series in Healthcare and Senior Living Design) by Clare Cooper Marcus
The Medicine Wheel Garden : Creating Sacred Space for Healing, Celebration, and Tranquillity by: E. Barrie Kavasch
Restorative Gardens : The Healing Landscape
by: Nancy Gerlach-Spriggs, Richard Kaufman, Sam Bass Warner
Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors
by: Peg Streep
by: Romy Rawlings
Gardens for the Soul : Designing Outdoor Spaces Using Ancient Symbols, Healing Plants and Feng Shui
by: Pamela Woods