Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

Benefits of horticulture therapy include:

  • Mental: increased independence; increased self-esteem; improved observation skills; improved problem-solving skills; encourages creativity; releases stress, anger, and other emotions.
  • Social: understanding of lifecycle, and the idea of continuity; opportunity to interact with others and work in a team; cooperation and team working skills; opportunity to learn from others and develop social skills.
  • Physical: increases flexibility and range of motion; improves fine motor skills; improves coordination and balance, increase muscular strength; can play a part in rehabilitating weakened muscles.

The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) lists the following benefits of horticultural therapy:

  • enhancing self-esteem;
  • alleviating depression;
  • improving motor skills;
  • providing opportunities in problem solving;
  • encouraging work adjustment;
  • teaching marketable horticultural and business skills.

They conclude, ‘For many patients whose conditions (and treatments) have rendered them feeling passive and dependent, having living plants to nurture creates a role reversal. Horticultural Therapy places the patient in the care-giving role and this often engenders confidence and a renewed sense of purpose.’

Today, many long-term care facilities use gardening to help clients become re-involved with life. Even those who have been withdrawn and uncommunicative for years may begin to respond once out in the conservatory or garden.

In the case of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, there is mounting evidence that gardens function are especially effective and beneficial settings with respect to fostering restoration for stressed patients, family members, and staff (Ulrich, 1999). Cooper-Marcus and Barnes (1995) used a combination of behavioral observation and interview methods to evaluate four hospital gardens in California. They found that restoration from stress, including improved mood, was by far the most important category of benefits derived by nearly all users of the gardens — patients, family, and employees.

Well-designed hospital gardens not only provide calming and pleasant nature views, but can also reduce stress and improve clinical outcomes through other mechanisms, for instance, fostering access to social support and privacy, and providing opportunities for escape from stressful clinical settings (Ulrich, 1999; Cooper-Marcus and Barnes, 1995).

Roger S Ulrich, PhD, Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals

A study at an Alzheimer’s home in America showed that those who spent as little as five to ten minutes of unprogrammed activity in the garden each day in the summer months showed significant improvements on a number of parameters, including aggressive behaviour, physician-ordered medication, pulse rate, blood pressure and weight gain.

The more we are engaged with the environment through all our senses, the lower are our rates of anxiety and the less we are aware of pain. Thus, a healing garden needs to provide a multi-sensory experience with colourful flowers, varying shades and textures of green, the sights and sounds of water, elements that attract birds and butterflies, fragrances, and ornamental grasses which move with the slightest breeze.

Landscape Design: Patient-Specific Healing Gardens

Marjorie Harris believes gardening is profoundly linked to nurturing, and brings out our most human qualities.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the intimate link between us and growing things. Our bodies offer a parallel to the biological structure of plants.

Marjorie Harris, The Healing Garden