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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

On Earth Day, Therapeutic Gardens Bloom

Published April 21, 2010 1:50 PM by Cheryl McEvoy

When I was a kid, I loved traipsing around my grandmother's garden. It wasn't grand, mind you, just a few rows of flowers, some stepping stones and--most importantly--a big ol' raspberry bush. (My teeth often displayed the seeds of my bounty.)

I'm not alone in my admiration of flora; horticultural therapy programs have cropped up across the country. Gardening has become one of the latest ways to elevate mood, strengthen motor skills and give patients a tangible view of their progress. It's even been used to relieve post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.

This Earth Day (ahem, that's today), a pediatric organization in Pittsburgh is joining the ranks, breaking ground on a 10,000 square foot garden. The Children's Institute, which provides The Children's Institute is breaking ground on this, school and adoptive services for kids with special needs, will incorporate the Nimick Family Therapeutic Garden into its physical, occupational and speech/language therapy programs. Children will plant seeds, nurture their growth, and all will be captured on the organization's website.

And by the looks of it (view right), they're quite the romping grounds. Plans include interactive features like a "song bench" that tweets (sounds, not messages) when you sit on it; a treehouse with ramp; and a fountain where kids control the water flow.

I'm all for gardens being a place to let loose, but to be honest, I think of them more as a break from the overly sterile. As someone who hates the smell of hand sanitizer and would love to take a paintbrush to blinding white walls, I'm glad facilities are paying more attention to aesthetics. And, as programs like therapeutic gardens are proving, there are health benefits to jazzing the place up.

What are your thoughts on horticultural therapy? Would you consider instituting a program in your physical therapy or rehab practice?


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