After a long Maritime winter it is so refreshing to see green sprout forth. The beauty and enjoyment of plants, flowers, herbs, and produce is actually quite therapeutic. Horticulture therapy research indicates emotional, cognitive and/or sensory motor functional improvement, increased social participation, health, well-being and life satisfaction. Gardening and enjoying the fruits of ones’ labor appeals to all the senses and is an excellent way to cope with stress and loss in life. Horticultural therapy is gaining respect as an evidence-based practice in health care (Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association)
Gardening also provides a means of building a stronger sense of community (i.e. community gardens, meeting local farmers at the market). How enjoyable is it to have a neighbour show up with fresh beans from their little garden or to pluck cherry tomatoes from a deck container next to your sun chair that came from a local greenhouse? Local gardening societies can offer great social support and fun get-togethers during which you can share plants and knowledge and expand your garden a little more economically.
This past year, I discovered that if you harvest the seeds from annual Morning Glories, you can plant them on windowsills all year and get gorgeous heart-shaped leaves and fantastic purple hued flowers all year (depicted). I knew almost nothing about gardening when I started about 10 years ago and I still have a lot to learn, but that is part of the fun. I learned to calm the excitement and start one small garden at a time because they do require time, attention, and some money to maintain. In an effort to save money and garden more creatively, I began researching seed storage and how to grow expensive lilies and other plants by harvesting their seeds in the fall. It has been so rewarding to grow my own daylilies and give them as gifts. I use them in therapy to help interested clients make gifts for others (i.e. mother’s day morning glories in pretty recycled glass jars). Sunflowers are an absolute blast to plant with kids and by starting them in doors you can better ensure they are big enough to survive slug attacks. When we are trying to soothe loss of loved ones, the gift of a hardy, perennial flowing plant can symbolize how love and memories strive to go on living.
Many people tell me they feel grounded and at one with the nature when they are digging in the garden.
It can be a replenishing, spiritual experience when one is going at their own pace –such a different feel then a forced mowing or raking chore.
Color has such a well-established impact on mood so planning for color themes in your garden can truly help one have a healing experience (i.e. happy yellow tulips, relaxing purple and white delphiniums). I have gotten a little carried away and pushed my back and shoulders a little too far. I have gotten a little carried away and pushed my back and shoulders a little too far. Gardening can be excellent exercise so do not be surprised if you need a chiropractic adjustment or massage – especially when weeding for hours or digging a new plot.