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Mar 13 2023
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THE GARDEN IS A HEALING PLACE   

and often a family affair

There are many different reasons why people turn to gardening, but from what I’ve seen, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that overwhelmingly it is the desire to heal that moves people to the garden. We turn to the garden because of our deep natural connection to nature and the encouragement we find in things that are growing.

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to introduce a beautiful family to the garden. Kischa Howard, the matriarch of this family, last year suffered one of life’s most difficult injustices to a parent---the loss of a child. Kischa called me a few days ago and asked if I teach her how to garden. She also mentioned that she had lost a son to cancer just last year. He was teaching her how to garden and she wanted to continue in memory of him. Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, not only Kischa, but also her daughter, son, sister, granddaughter, grandson and daughter-in-love came with her.  All will be working this beautiful family memory garden.

On Sunday, they completed the build for a lasagna bed and planted two yellow squashes.

I’m sure they will teach me much more that I’ll ever teach them--that’s the secret that many don’t realize but the teacher almost always learns more from the pupils than they learn from the teacher. At the very least, it is a mutual exchange.

Scientific evidence abounds in literature to support gardens as being healing places for human beings.  Gardens provide psychological, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits to humans.  The term healing gardens is most often applied to green spaces in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that specifically aim to improve health outcomes. These gardens provide a place of refuge and promote healing in patients, families, and staff.  Any environment can promote healing, but gardens are particularly able to do so because humans are hard-wired to find nature engrossing and soothing.

Regardless age or culture, we find nature restorative. In one study, researchers Marcus and Barnes found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to calmer and more balanced. [Source: University of Minnesota]

Why do we find nature so restorative? As mentioned, some believe that it is because we are hardwired in our genes. Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens, summarizes it thus: "We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us." [Note: Dr. Ulrich is Professor of Architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and is adjunct professor of architecture at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is the most frequently cited researcher internationally in evidence-based healthcare design.]

Another reason for our biological connection to nature could be that humans who paid close attention to nature gathered key information that helped them survive and reproduce. So, the tendency to find nature engrossing lived on in those genes.

The importance of gardens figures large in literature and religion. For example, the Christian story begins in the Garden of Eden.  Our literature abounds with stories developed around gardens in such works as Shakespeare’s Richard II; Keats Garden poems; Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass; Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens; etc.

I hope you'll visit the Garland Community Garden because then you will see what I mean.

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