Connecting People with Disabilities to Nature
Spending time in a garden can be therapeutic for most people, especially those with mental, physical, or emotional challenges. Depending on the disability, connecting with nature can promote social interactions, improve fine motor skills, improve concentration, or instill a sense of independence. Research indicates that therapeutic gardens enhance the outlook and lives of people who feel enriched by their beauty and tranquility.
Like naturalized or butterfly gardens, these types of gardens are designed with a specific purpose. According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association, a therapeutic garden is “a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interactions with healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and user’s needs.”
It’s essential to understand who the garden is designed to support. Someone challenged with autism or mental illness may have sensory issues that must be considered when selecting plants, equipment, and developing the space. Whereas mobile individuals can navigate an area with plants of various heights, it will be easier for someone in a wheelchair to care for plants in a raised bed.
The Five Types of Therapeutic Gardens
Gardens can be designed for hands-on, active participation or as passive, contemplative environments. The five categories are healing, enabling, meditative, rehabilitative, and restorative.
Healing Gardens: Horticultural therapy is used to improve the healing process. This type of garden consists of fragrant plants, colorful plants, and water elements that promote mental, emotional, and physical healing.
Enabling Gardens: Physical activities related to gardening can make people feel more confident and mentally fit. Planting can improve strength and coordination. Enabling gardens is often used to help patients recover and can also include training for a job related to horticulture.
Rehabilitative Gardens: These gardens serve a dual purpose—they are designed to heal the gardener and the environment. It can bring people together for social and environmental reasons in communities with poor-quality soil or erosion problems. Rehabilitative gardens can be populated with natural species and traditional plants that are readily available.
Meditative Gardens: These carefully planned gardens aim to restore the person’s emotional and psychological balance. It has paths and alcoves for solitude and quiet meditation. These gardens are highly beneficial for veterans with PTSD, victims of violence, or those who are grieving.
Restorative Gardens: Creating a peaceful sanctuary that relieves stress, calms nerves, and heals trauma are a few reasons gardeners and health organizations build restorative gardens. In addition to natural plants, these gardens often include ponds with fish and small animals. In cases where hospitals encourage patients to participate, they can do so at leisure.
Growing a Therapeutic Garden
The need for therapeutic gardens will grow and consumers will stop at their local garden centers to purchase plants, decorative figures, and other essentials. The type of garden people grow will determine the plants and elements selected. The general design may include plants of various colors, sizes, and textures. Add natural elements such as interesting rocks or other organic elements.
Growing coneflowers, alliums, or tulips will add bold colors. Native wildflowers are also an attractive option. Plants attracting bees and butterflies will benefit wildlife and the environment. Gardeners can create architecture by adding trees and shrubs of various heights. Understanding the importance of natural gardens to the people who benefit from them will help retailers provide knowledgeable advice and great service to diverse customers.