Into the Nature

Karthikeyan

Healing Scenario- Adapting to green spaces

(Concepts
about Horticultural Therapy Garden)

In Horticultural Therapy, the therapists embrace the role of a mediator who connects patients to plants. Plants are natural healers and start to heal the patient’s body, mind and soul after the first interaction. Do you know what plants know? Even if it’s a yes on your end there are a lot of things one can learn and observe about plants. Plants can sense many things in the surroundings. They respond to the stimuli of their environment. Plants are regulators of weather in an area and the main factor of rain. They are very sensible organisms so they can recognize even the smallest variations happening within and around them. When a person is working with a group of plants and is able to feel calm and relaxed, his/her senses get stimulated due to the transfer of positive energy from the plants. Studies have proved that plants are the only creatures which are able to emit energy to the environment. The importance of having a garden and pursuing gardening techniques has to be well understood and adopted as it can improve the quality of life of a person.

Horticultural therapy is based on people-plant interaction. You may wonder what “people-plant interaction” is about and how it can benefit the physically and mentally challenged. Well, it is as simple as how you interact with your family and friends. You can talk and share your emotions with plants, you can provide the same care and affection that you show your friend or a relative and even give them a plant buddy hug. While these interactions take place, it will directly or indirectly enhance the strength of a person’s body and mind. Mental attitude towards plants can heal the mind and caring, gardening and outdoor activities will help to keep the body fit. It is vital to understand that this approach and attitude might vary from person to person and this approach should be decided by the horticulture therapist to achieve the patient’s goals. HT may use simple gardening techniques but the way therapists use them depends on each patient’s needs.

“When I put myself into nature; my mind becomes blank, breath becomes slow and I can feel the taste of peace”

You probably might have heard about different types of gardens such as healing garden, vocational garden, therapeutic garden, horticultural therapy garden, medicinal garden, sensory garden and community garden. All these have their own benefits, as the title says. A well designed Horticulture Therapy Garden (HTG) can provide all facilities for achieving and overcoming patients needs and limitations. Horticultural therapy programs also have different forms like therapeutic, vocational and social. A diseased patient can receive a lot of benefits from a therapeutic garden, which provides a healing environment. And a physically or mentally challenged person could receive training through a vocational horticultural therapy program. And the elderly and developmentally disabled category of people can attain advantages from a social horticulture therapy program. But in general, most of the cases need all three forms to become independent in society. It is better to provide therapeutic, vocational as well as social benefits to the same patient, if necessary, who are willing to participate in HT programs. And most importantly the garden is constructed in such a way that it aids to customize and fulfill all their needs.

While constructing a general horticultural therapy garden for the accommodation of different types of population, it is important to consider different facilities and features which can make an impact on the participants. One main thing to keep in mind while designing is cultivating patches by dividing the total space for implementing different concepts. And each space is specially designed for achieving specific goals. Some of the main garden features needed in HTG are given below:

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Benefits

Sensory Garden

Will stimulate and sharpen all the senses. It is considerable to grow a minimum of 3 different plants for each sense, so that the participant could achieve more experience and interest while using different types of plants for each sense. Enhancing sensory stimulations are necessary for most of the diseased and disabled.

Vegetable Garden

This is another important area needed in a horticultural therapy garden. Sowing or planting and caring till harvesting will encourage the participant physically and mentally. Vegetable cultivations help improve physical strength and observing the growth of plants, caring and harvesting will boost their self-confidence, commitment and levels of happiness. This area also teaches them vocational skills which aids them to be independent in the society.

Medicinal Garden

Cultivate a medicinal area in the garden and include as much as herbs in a particular space. It is suitable to grow this patch at the center of the garden. These plants will purify the air and make the surroundings a healing environment. Even the air itself has medicinal property.

Shade House

Build a shade house at any corner of the garden. It can be used as a working area and for repotting and propagation and growing saplings. Some of the indoor activities are also possible in a shade house.

Color Garden

One patch can be used as a color area. Use both bright and light colored flowering plants as well as green. The color and smell can make an impact on the human emotional system and cognitive functioning. It is also preferable to have patches on the edges of the garden. Rose garden, rainbow garden and yellow garden are few types of color gardens. It is better to make the bright and light color in two different corners as it can aid the patients well.

Fragrance Garden

Smell is the best way to heal human emotions. Wild and mild fragrances can be used in two different areas.

Butterfly Garden

HTG should have access to an area for a butterfly garden or preferably grow butterfly attracting plants around the garden. It helps to keep the garden more alive and energetic and this will encourage the patients.

Adaptive Techniques

The use of adaptive techniques makes it more accessible. It can help the elderly and wheelchair patients be a part of the program. Rotating pots, hanging basket with the pulley system, pergola, rack system etc. are some among them. These techniques also provide physical exercise in an indirect way and feasibility is another advantage for differently abled population.

Sculptures and Water Foundation

A moving water fountain is very important for a horticultural therapy garden. It brings in more liveliness to the garden and also attracts birds and other pet animals. This feature can help the patient develop inspiration and refreshment. Sculptures are a good way to build curiosity in the patients. It stimulates cognitive skills and helps to recall past memories.

Private Area, Adopt a spot, Resting Area, Chat Area

Private area helps to relax the patient and can also be used for meditation. Adopt a spot can help to boost up responsibilities and self-encouragements. Resting area such as garden benches, can help the patient to feel calm. And the chat area can be used for storytelling, chatting with younger children and also for conducting small outdoor games.

Pathways

Pathways should accessible for all the visitors including wheelchair patients. It is better to build an area as reflexology pathway.

Light Component

Beautiful light arrangements on pathways, sculptures, water fountain and other important areas are necessary. It makes the garden more pleasing and secure even in the night.

Security

Make use of only non-poisonous and native plants. The garden should have an entrance and exit. Avoid constructing slippery areas. Don’t compose large and deep water fountains.

Hygiene is another important matter that should be cared about in a HTG. The gardeners as well as the patients should take the responsibility to keep the garden clean. Generating natural sounds such as wind chimes and adding other facilities to attract birds and pets can make the garden more lively, energetic and therapeutic. It is preferable to build a store room in the garden to keep gardening equipment. The theme, color, fragrance, landscape design and furniture are the main things that need to be considered while implementing a horticultural therapy garden. It is also vital to consider the patient’s needs and likes of the garden. Also another tip is to conduct “Harvest Mela” or an exhibition for exploring the products made by the patients. If it is a private one, have a get together with friends and relatives to encourage them. This will help them boost their confidence and self-esteem. HT garden can make the disabled people feel energized by improving their physical, mental and social skills.

Connecting with Nature

“The best way to reduce your mental trauma is to connect yourself with Nature”

By Karthikeyan V

Talking to Plants

It’s been some months since I spent time on a blog. Here I am going to start a series of blogs that I have experienced in my profession (One in a week). In India, there are only a few people practicing Horticultural Therapy professionally. We don’t have many courses here to train to become a Horticultural Therapist. It is important to learn our environmental conditions for applying this therapeutic method effectively. There are many factors there to understand including weather, lifestyle, culture, and so on.

Dr. Achuthan Eswar is one of my colleagues,but we always keep a brotherhood relationship. He is a Naturopathic doctor. He is a well-known person in Bangalore, India. He is passionate about his subject Naturopath and also has an enthusiastic mind that makes him different from the other professionals. When we work together, we find the integration of Horticultural Therapy and yoga-based Naturopathy can create faster healing. He found his patients becoming open-minded and relaxed after HT sessions and so he started recommending HT sessions for the needy people. For me, that was a golden opportunity to meet more people to spread HT and its importance. Those who experienced HT they came again for another one. It was quite interesting to listen to their experience and enjoyment with plants.

One day one couple came for the session. She was suffering from infertility issues and the border stage of depression. So we can imagine the stress they have. This stress is leading to other physical and psychological problems too. So the doctor recommended a few HT sessions for her. After listening to her, I realized the situation of her and how it was hurting her each time. Her anxiety, unnecessary thoughts, and imbalanced emotions were leading her to depression. After the first session, she started showing more interest in plants. I continued my HT sessions, and she started finding her happiness in plants. In the 4th session, I introduce one activity about how to talk to a plant. She enjoyed it, and that became one of her favorite activities. She is good at gardening too. In our last session, she said there is a bougainvillea plant at her house. Two years ago, she planted that one on the balcony. She used to spend some time with the plant every day. But it is not flowered yet. That was her complaint.

I asked her, do you believe that a plant can listen to you? She said, “yes”. And she said “when I started talking to plants, it was just a crazy activity for me. But later on, I found how effective it is. This activity creates tremendous changes in me, and it is a better stress-relieving method for me. I do believe in Plants and they are good listeners too. After hearing this from her, I said, then why are you asking me for flowers, go and ask for your plant. Let’s see how it will respond to you. She agreed to that. After three weeks, I got a Whats-app message with a picture. The picture is of a beautiful bougainvillea plant with lots of flowers. The message is- “I asked, she gave. My bougainville plant started flowering. Thank you for the sessions and discussions.”

“Talking to plants will help to generate friends in Nature; that may be an animal or a plant”

Bougainvillea

Did you ever talk to a plant? If not, please do. I did it many times in my life. It is a kind of meditation. When I did this to my participants, most of them became emotional. I never heard any of my participants say that they don’t like this. Trust me, plants are a good listener, and you can feel their response if your approach is sincere. If you have experience related to this, please share here!!! Be blessed.

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