Gardening as Therapy - I

Last weekend I attended a Garden Writers of America regional meeting at NYU Medical Center’s Enid Haupt Glass Garden at the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation. Director Nancy Chambers (top photo) presented the keynote on the hospital’s horticultural therapy program.

The Glass Garden (greenhouse) offers year-round programs for the hospital’s patients as well as the general public. The horticultural therapy classes are designed to be restorative and support the work of the hospital’s physical or occupational therapy programs. Established in 1959, the 1,700 square foot conservatory is a tropical oasis with plant collections that include an aquatic garden, orchids, ferns, palms, bromeliads, succulents, caudate, and insectivorous plants. A true botanic garden, it includes plants from around the world to provide international visitors with a glimpse of “home.” Koi, goldfish, turtles, and catfish inhabit the pond; parrots, finches, canaries, and doves impart soothing sounds. A tuxedo cat greets visitors and suns herself among the plants.

The Glass Garden and Rusk’s recognition of the healing effect natural environments have on hospital patients were ahead of their time. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that horticultural therapy became a recognized profession due, in part, to the research of environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan.

Patients participate in gardening activities both to practice what they’ve learned in occupational therapy, and to get away from the hospital environment. But the majority of the more than 100,000 people who visit the Glass Garden each year are relatives or friends of patients, who may have to spend long hours just waiting. Hospital staff also find relief from job stress by taking a quick break there.

Many thanks to Nancy for hosting this event.
More next time…..

To read about the Enid Haupt Glass Garden and the horticultural therapy program, or for directions to the garden, visit   

To read my thoughts on the Transformational Power of Gardening, click

To read about creating a holistic relationship with your garden, visit 

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