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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 

Free Newsletter: Join Thoughtful Gardeners in Reading Cultivating the Inner Gardener

The gardening season unofficially launched in the Northeast this week, with temps predicted to swell to near 70º on Saturday. The (really hot) sunshine has brought out the best of my very early bloomers: Snowdrops, purple hybrid and yellow species crocus, Winter Aconite, Christmas Rose, and Lenten Rose. I was surprised to also see some of the Hydrangea leaf buds bursting out of their brown, scaly shells, as well as early growth from Wood Hyacinth. Before we know it, our spring gardens will be three steps ahead of us as usual.

With cabin fever behind us and spring fever before us, you may want to take a few moments to think about what internal fulfillment your garden can give back to you this growing season, beyond the mere enjoyment of the garden’s physical beauty.

I’ve written about how to approach this before at and .

At the end of this month, I’ll be instituting a monthly newsletter, Cultivating the Inner Gardener, for gardening enthusiasts who want to learn how to garden from the inside out and experience the transformational power of gardening. I’d love for you to subscribe and join me in turning this new adventure into a global movement to reconnect people to the Earth through gardening.

To sign up, just look for the “Join Yahoo Groups” icon in the sidebar, fill in your e-mail address, and click “Join Now.” This is a double opt-in subscription that ensures that only those people who want the newsletter will get it.

Final Call for Fabulous English Garden Tour

Donna Dawson over at Gardening Tours tells me that there are only a couple of weeks left to sign up for the fabulous Blooms of Bressingham Celebration of English Gardens tour. Bookings close April 3rd. While the tour is designed primarily for garden writers and horticultural professionals, all hort-heads are welcome.

In addition to the 16 acres of perennial gardens of Alan and Adrian Bloom, the tour takes you to seven other not-to-be-missed classic English gardens and includes a full day at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

For complete details, click on over to Donna’s site at .

Get the Most From Flower Shows

I’ll be speaking on Cultivating the Inner Gardener: Gardening for Personal Growth ( ) on March 12, 2010 at 3:30pm, at this year’s Springfest Flower and Garden Show in Augusta, NJ at the Sussex County Fairgrounds ( Come by and say “hello” if you’re in the area.

As the flower and garden show season swings into high gear, garden enthusiasts everywhere are itching to see demonstration gardens in full bloom and to spend some of their hard-earned money on unusual ornaments and colorful plants. To get the most from your visit, plan ahead.

1. Comfortably cushioned flat shoes are a must, since most shows take place in structures that have concrete floors, which quickly take their toll. Some demonstration gardens will have flagstone or boardwalk-style paths that make for uneven walking, or may catch narrow heels.

2. Think about your main reason for going to the show and do that first. I used to go to one show just to purchase ornaments from a particular vendor. I’d put my treasures in her “holding” area and feel free to cruise the rest of the show without being rushed, because I was sure I wasn’t missing anything important. Look at the layout map to see what gardens or vendors interest you the most, decide which talks are an absolute must-hear, and locate an area, such as the café, where you can rest up for round two.

3. Dress appropriately. This means different things to different people in different locales, but wear something you won’t mind having soil from a tumbling flowerpot spill on, or an overactive fountain splash with water.

4. Take the minimum necessary and make it easy to carry. Even a relatively light bag will begin to feel heavy after two hours. Pack a fold-up tote in a backpack and you should have plenty of room to store your purchases.

5. Be courteous and mindful of other attendees. You will be sharing this space with thousands of other people. Don’t step in front of someone’s camera when they’re set for the perfect shot and, if you’re the photographer, wait until the crowd thins a bit. Don’t stand in front of a garden, or stop on a narrow path and chat with your friend while hundreds of others are waiting their turn. It’s often tough to hear in these cavernous spaces that act as echo chambers, so don’t make it worse by shouting.

6. Respect the hard work that’s gone into the show. Avoid stepping on plants and keep to the indicated walkways. Think twice about bringing carts or other bulky items and how you will maneuver them in a narrow, crowded space. Don’t touch plants, or pick flowers.

7. Consider the maturity of your children before bringing them along. Are they likely to take a fistful of mulch or gravel and hurl it into someone’s face? Will they pick all the daisies to make a bouquet for you? Do you really want to push a stroller up and down flagstone steps or across a curved wooden bridge?

8. Assess your limitations. People who need mobility assistance may get around more easily in the “off” hours, which tend to be weekday afternoons. If you are afflicted with allergies or other medical difficulties, be sure to bring along necessary medications and carry information about your problem in the event that medical assistance becomes necessary. You may also want to think about limiting your time at the show, or making two shorter visits instead of one long one.

9. Slow down, take a deep breath, and take time to smell the roses. The real spring is just around the corner!

10. Have a great time.