Archives For horticultural therapy

Pantone Color of the Year: ‘Greenery’ and Its Many Benefits

This year, Pantone chose 'greenery' as the color of the year. Read about the many benefits of green and why it is so important in every day life.

Clare Johnson —  March 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

The 2017 Pantone color of the year has us doing somersaults at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Pantone’s “greenery” has inspired us to discuss the importance of green space and nature’s role in our well-being.

Every year, Pantone selects a color of the year. This year’s color selection, “greenery”—a revitalizing shade “symbolic of new beginnings”—inspired us to discuss the benefits of spending time in nature with our Horticultural Therapy participants—a conversation worth sharing with the entire Garden community.

January's Gardening for Life Enrichment project: Eucalyptus Sensory Mobile.

January’s Gardening for Life Enrichment project: Eucalyptus Sensory Mobile.

The color “greenery” brings many images to mind: lush forests, fruits and vegetables, fields of grass, and wild jungles. Being in spaces of green, or viewing them from inside, brings about psychological and physiological changes in our bodies. It slows our breathing, reduces stress, and encourages us to take in what is around us. 

Why does “greenery” impact us the way it does? There are countless reasons why we feel calm, restored, and connected while in nature. Largely, it is because we are connected to it as human beings. The Biophilia theory, formulated by evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, teaches us that because our survival has been linked with nature (water, shelter, food), our love of it is built into our DNA. 

Being in green space allows us to rest our minds. More specifically, it allows our directed attention a chance to restore. Directed attention is what we use to concentrate on the day-to-day tasks—sending emails, conducting meetings, taking exams, etc. Our directed attention can quickly become fatigued when it is overworked. This is where nature comes to the rescue.

According to researchers Rachel and Steven Kaplan, nature provides us with elements of “soft fascination,” such as watching tall grasses in the wind or listening to a babbling brook. These elements engage our involuntary attention—attention that is reactive to stimuli and doesn’t take cognitive effort—and when our involuntary attention is engaged, our directed attention gets to take a break. Creating opportunities to take breaks in green space has been statistically proven to increase concentration and alertness, happiness, and connectivity—no matter one’s age, ability, or background. As we like to say, nature (or “greenery”) is one of the best vitamins you can take to keep up with the hustle and bustle of life. 

Watching butterflies is one of the many ways nature provides us with "soft fascination."

Watching butterflies is one of the many ways nature provides us with “soft fascination.”

Theories and studies, such as the ones listed above, have inspired a resurgence in restorative landscapes. This resurgence has led to outcomes such as the following: greater number of gardens in healthcare facilities; nature-based curriculums and education centers (e.g., the Nature Preschool at the Garden); and professional development opportunities such as the Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network in the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program.

There are many elements one could incorporate when creating a therapeutic green space. When we design a garden with therapeutic intentions, we include some of the following features:

  1. A 7:3 vegetation vs. hardscape ratio (70 percent vegetation; 30 percent hardscape)
  2. Opportunities to engage with nature, such as raised beds/vertical plantings with high sensory plant material
  3. Elements of soft fascination (e.g., water features, tall grasses, bird feeders, butterfly gardens)
  4. Accessible and comfortable garden elements (e.g., smooth surfaces, ample shade, and seating areas)

Most importantly, we design spaces that create a positive distraction to the everyday experience. It is important that spaces of “greenery” evoke joy and excitement, engaging visitors in the space with or without planned activities. 

Landscape design rendering using a full range of greenery-shaded markers. (Designer: Clare Johnson)

Landscape design rendering using a full range of greenery-shaded markers. (Designer: Clare Johnson)

Visiting a green space, even viewing one from inside your home or office, brings about positive and impactful changes in our bodies and minds. It is one of the most universally accessible and free healthcare resources in our modern world. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, we cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. We believe strongly in the power of “greenery” and its impact on our health and well-being. Through thoughtful display gardens, designs, programs, and research, we continue to educate the public and inspire future generations to become stewards of the environment. After all, a little “greenery” goes a long way.

Interested in learning more about the importance of green space for health and well-being? Read about the upcoming seminar, Gardens That Heal: A Prescription for Wellness on May 10, 2017. 


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Planting well-being: near and far

How the Horticultural Therapy Department makes an impact on a communities health, education and wellbeing.

Clare Johnson —  October 10, 2016 — 2 Comments

This year, the Horticultural Therapy Services department consulted with a wide range of organizations to bring the healing power of nature to communities across the globe—from Illinois to the Philippines. 

This past spring, the Horticultural Therapy department was contacted by Park School—a self-contained public therapeutic day program in Evanston, Illinois—to develop a plant-based therapy program alongside its staff and students. This program was generously funded by Foundation 65, the educational foundation for Evanston-Skokie School District 65. 

Throughout the spring and early summer, we planted and tended an accessible, outdoor container garden as part of the students’ therapeutic curriculum.

i-f8lnsmz-xl

Planting sensory containers with a student at Park School

Park’s devotion to its students, community, and environmental education landed the school a grant from the GRO1000 grassroots grant project. This grant enabled Park to contract with the Chicago Botanic Garden to design a permanent sensory garden for the school. 

As the design consultant, I led the garden design steering committee—comprised of Park staff; Mary Brown, Ph.D., of District 65; and Park’s PTA—through the design process, resulting in an accessible and engaging sensory garden design set to be installed on October 14 and 15. 

The Park School Sensory Garden boasts elements such as an outdoor classroom with overhead pergola, accessible garden shed and raised containers, hanging sensory planters, and a memorial garden. Park School will be hosting a volunteer day on Saturday, October 15, for local community members interested in getting involved in this fantastic project. The volunteer day will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a garden dedication at 2 p.m. 

C:UsersAmy OlsenDownloadsPark School update 729 11x17 Landsc

Rendering of the Park School Sensory Garden (Clare Johnson)

The restorative power of nature knows no bounds, and we’re fortunate to be able to provide consulting services to organizations near and far. When Rachel Jones, a Peace Corps volunteer serving in the Philippines, contacted us in early 2016 asking for design guidance, we immediately said “yes.”

Rachel works at a nonprofit organization called My Refuge House. It’s a shelter for girls who have been rescued from commercial sexual exploitation and abuse. Two years ago the shelter switched from a highly clinical track of therapy to one that is more culturally relevant and uses alternative approaches. As a professional who had previously worked with horticultural therapy, Rachel created a project and received a grant to create a healing garden on the property for group therapy and individual meditation.

img_3250

Collecting cuttings from community members for the healing garden

Rachel and I discussed some of the fundamental principles of therapeutic garden design, including but not limited to private and public gathering spaces, lush plantings, smooth paving, shade structure/trees, safe perimeter, moveable seating, and so on.

Rachel engaged the local community while constructing the garden. She shared a story about how she collected some of the plant material: “Today we went on a hike up the mountain, where the shelter is located, to ask people for cuttings from their plants. We met great people and they were all very generous in providing plants for our garden.” When planning a garden, involving your community is a great way to increase the ownership of a space, and the devotion to the mission.

It was wonderful to read the updates from Rachel as they came to the end of the installation. 

My Refuge House

The Healing Garden at My Refuge House in the Philippines

When the garden was completed, they hosted a dedication ceremony memorializing the hard work that had gone into the creation of the healing garden. It was an honor to be a resource for this incredible project, and we hope to have a powerful effect on many other communities, moving forward. 

The healing power of nature, much like these projects, has no limits. Something as small as a shady nook with a gliding swing can make a world of difference for someone in need.  

Find more information about the project at My Refuge House by visiting the Peace Corp volunteer’s blog


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

In the summer of 2002, a large, multidisciplinary group of professors, healthcare providers, and design professionals gathered at the Chicago Botanic Garden to help form the curriculum of a new, original certificate program.

The goal of the Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program was, and remains, to provide a useful, up-to-date, and engaging professional development opportunity in healthcare garden design that reflects the multidisciplinary nature of this emerging field, and allows participants the opportunity to focus their learning on topics of particular relevance to each person.

PHOTO: 2015 Healthcare Garden Design class.

The 2015 Healthcare Garden Design class
Photo by Carissa Ilg

PHOTO: Participants rest in the shade of a garden during a site visit as part of the Healthcare Garden Design course.

Gwenn Fried, a program instructor, having a conversation with 2015 program participant during a site visit to a healing garden as part of the Healthcare Garden Design Certificate course. Photo by Carissa Ilg

From the start, evidence-based design has been the core of this program, with a focus on using research results to design garden facilities that allow for and make possible specific health and wellness outcomes, while encouraging the design team’s creativity and the application of professional insight.

What you can expect to learn from attending this course:

  • Learn from key industry leaders why healthcare gardens constitute an essential component of customer-centered environments of care. Learn how these gardens positively impact patient health outcomes, stress reduction, and satisfaction, as well as employee retention, marketing activities, philanthropy, accreditation, and the bottom line.
  • Gain a more thorough understanding of how evidence-based design is fueling growth in healthcare gardens and restorative environments, and how research informs the design process.
  • Define best practices in this emerging field through collaboration with colleagues from a variety of professions.
  • Discover how healthcare gardens can lead to increased levels of outside funding and contribute to successful marketing activities.
  • Learn about the full range of benefits that therapeutic gardens make possible when used by health professionals including doctors, nurses, and horticultural, art, music, physical, occupational, and recreation therapists.
  • Engage in case studies, multidisciplinary group projects, field trips, and other learning activities that focus on the unique characteristics of healthcare gardens and their design for specific populations and facilities.
PHOTO: Splitting into teams, each group designs their own Healthcare Garden Design project to present at the end of the program.

Splitting into teams, each group designs their own healthcare garden design project to present at the end of the program. Photo by Carissa Ilg

PHOTO: Another team sketches out their Healthcare Garden Design.

Another team sketches out their healthcare garden design. Photo by Mark Epstein

The Healthcare Garden Design (HGD) program at Chicago Botanic Garden was one of the most information-packed programs I have ever attended. Every speaker was at the top of their field and imparted practical, useful information that I was able to take back to my special-needs school to use. I loved that the speakers had diverse backgrounds—which gave a well-rounded view of what healthcare gardens should entail. Because of what we learned at the HGD program, we were able to design a wheelchair-accessible therapy garden that meets the needs of all our students. The program gave us insight to avoid problems, add security and safety, and create a useful, beautiful garden for students with very complex needs. I can’t say enough about how valuable the HGD program was for my professional career as a special-needs educator with an extreme interest in horticulture therapy.
—Janel Rowe, Bright Horizons Center School, Bright Garden Project co-chair

Each cohort is composed of up to 24 professionals and students from throughout the United States and abroad.

Past participants include:

  • Healthcare executives, administrators, and facility managers
  • Landscape architects, architects, and garden and interior designers
  • Nurses, doctors, horticultural and other adjunctive therapists, and other medical professionals
  • Graduate students in degree programs in these fields

Upon completion of this program, the participant’s ability to design and promote healthcare gardens will be markedly improved. Someone who has completed the program will be capable of applying their knowledge, skills, and insight to the design of healthcare gardens for any population or facility.

What you won’t find in the marketing material—the exclusive intangibles of this course—is the experience of immersive learning from the broad range of distinguished instructors, in a spectacular setting. The Chicago Botanic Garden itself is a masterpiece of great design, and the classroom feels like an illustrious museum. The curriculum and instructors provide personalized and customized learning. Participants have created enduring friendships and professional relationships in this course.

There is no other course like this one; the Healthcare Garden Design certificate program provides a unique and extraordinary experience.

PHOTO: Final 2015 Healthcare Garden Design group presentations.

Final 2015 Healthcare Garden Design group presentations
Photo by Carissa Ilg.


Our next program begins May 11, 2016. Register for the Healthcare Garden Design certificate program today.


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The January issue of National Geographic features articles on two topics dear to me: American’s national parks (I just planned a Grand Canyon/Arches trip for June!), and the power of nature to improve mental health. The latter article cites scientific evidence that nature makes us happier, more productive, nicer to each other, and—critically—more forgiving of ourselves. Additional evidence of this has been published in recent issues of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature.

PHOTO: Potato harvest.

Gardening is therapy for the whole being.

Gardeners recognize this power: We find therapy digging in the earth, getting our hands dirty, and participating intimately in the miracles of life, as well as the floods, freezes, insects, diseases, and other gardening disasters that allow us to witness low-stakes death firsthand.

Gardeners know that even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with our harvest, she doesn’t let us down. Nature is generally consistent, and when it isn’t, it is surprisingly consistent in its inconsistency. We can trust in it to adapt and evolve, to persevere endlessly and, when we let it, to heal and support us. We have no choice but to respect and defer to nature’s ways, even when they don’t always act in our favor. I find this incredibly reassuring.

Last winter, I was paying particular attention to my own mental health and finding essential comfort in the Chicago Botanic Garden—its paths and purpose, my colleagues, and my friends.

PHOTO: Winter in Kane County.

All seasons provide moments for us to photograph and enjoy.

In early January, I listened closely to a National Public Radio interview with former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk, who spoke openly and confidently about his own personal mental health challenges. Inspired, I thought that I too could share some of my story, and had the opportunity to do so in the pages of Sibbaldia, the journal of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The essay can be read here, but I think it is important to share a bit with you:

“It’s a long row to hoe” were the first words that came into my mind one morning. The day before me felt too busy, too much. How was I going to get everything done while being a good mother and daughter, an attentive partner and friend, and an effective leader? How would I balance the pressure of meetings, phone calls, and ever-increasing e-mail traffic while ensuring that dinner was on the table and my sons’ homework was completed on time? Where would I find time to be kind to myself somewhere along the way? I know this challenge is familiar to many women, and it certainly was not the first time I had felt this way. Furthermore, I have wrestled with feelings of anxiety my whole life, and moments like this one have been with me since I was young.

But that morning, when the idiom “It’s a long row to hoe” started repeating in my mind with the persistence of a pop song, I smiled, exhaled, and experienced an epiphany of sorts. My problems suddenly felt reframed. Never before had I really thought about that phrase. I said out loud, “Wow, the noun is ‘row,’ not ‘road’! This phrase is about gardening and farming…Growing things!”

PHOTO: Summer woods.

Making time and finding a space to reflect in nature is essential.

While I may not yet hold the gift of perpetual tranquility, I do know how to garden. Yes, I have learned that hoeing some rows is harder than others, when rocks and weeds or puddles are in the way, but I am always certain I can get the job done. And the labor I expend while gardening even makes me feel rejuvenated—both mentally and physically. At that moment, I wondered if I thought of each day that lay ahead as a metaphorical row to hoe—and plant, water, weed, harvest, and then allow to rest—would life feel easier? And it does. Some seasons give me the most delicious tomatoes and delphiniums that stand up straight, even in Chicago. Other days I wake to a late freeze or spend hours picking off slugs. Knowing that I can handle the ups and downs of gardening, I felt better prepared to face my more typical day with renewed mental strength, tranquility, and courage.

I know I am not alone in believing that people live better, healthier lives when they create, care for, and enjoy gardens. Millions of people tend backyard or container gardens, or keep plants in their home or office window to enrich their life. Even in winter, there are many ways to enjoy gardens and nature. One thing I do is put on my boots and take a nature walk, simply enjoying the experience of being outside. Browse seed catalogues or gardening books, and plan your summer garden. If you take a vacation, visit the local botanic garden. Dream of the tropics at the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Take nature photos. You can even view lovely garden scenes or videos while you work out. Gardening, visiting gardens, and taking advantage of the science, education, and therapy programs offered by more than 1,000 botanic gardens, arboreta, and conservatories around the world are helping many individuals and communities to cope, mourn, and rejoice.

PHOTO: The renewal of spring in the Garden: peonies in bloom in the West Flower Walk.

The renewal of spring in the Garden: peonies in bloom in the West Flower Walk.

Gardens give us a bounty of gifts: beautiful flowers to share and enjoy, fresh vegetables for our tables. Their greatest gift of all may be intangible, but we are so grateful for their unique power to help us lead happier, healthier lives.


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Garden received recognition and praise for two outreach programs at the recent American Public Gardens Association (APGA) Conference.

Award for Program Excellence

The American Public Gardens Association awarded the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Science Career Continuum the national Award for Program Excellence, marking the third time the Garden has received this prestigious prize since it was established in 1989.

“a truly innovative spirit in the development of an original program with demonstrated results”

This honor recognizes an APGA member garden that has innovated in conservation, botany, research, or other public garden areas of expertise. The Garden won the award for its groundbreaking Science Career Continuum. On June 23, during its annual conference, the APGA review committee praised the Garden’s program, saying “The Science Career Continuum has displayed a truly innovative spirit in the development of an original program with demonstrated results. APGA is proud to have programs such as yours at its member gardens.”

PHOTO: The Garden's emeritus Vice President of Community Education Programs Patsy Benveniste and CEO Sophia Shaw receive the award for Program Excellence from Dr. Casey Sclar, Executive Director of APGA.

The Garden’s recently retired vice president of community education programs, Patsy Benveniste, and CEO Sophia Shaw receive the Award for Program Excellence from Casey Sclar, Ph.D., executive director of APGA.

The Science Career Continuum engages 65 Black and Latino youth from Chicago Public Schools in science through hands-on exploration of nature, mentored internships, and college and career preparation with the aim of increasing the representation of people of color in environmental science careers. Over the past five years, these students have shown a 100 percent high-school graduation rate, 92 percent college matriculation rate, and 76 percent selection of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) majors, 65 percent of them in science.

Learn more about Science Career Continuum students in this video. 


Recognition for the Garden’s Work with Veterans

“the Chicago Botanic Garden has, for more than 30 years, used its unique resources to provide opportunities for healing…”

Ford Bell, the recently retired president and CEO of the American Association of Museums in Washington, D.C., also praised the Garden in his keynote presentation. 

Bell said, “Museums of all types are, at their core, community institutions, and I like to say, if you name a community problem, I will find you a museum somewhere in our country that is working to address that problem. I was certainly reminded of that at AAM’s Advocacy Day in February, when Iraq War veteran Fernando Valles was honored as one of our Great American Museum Advocates at the closing evening reception. Fernando was nominated for the award by the Chicago Botanic Garden, where he is a participant in the Garden’s initiative for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional challenges, in partnership with Thresholds, a community-based mental health agency. It is certainly admirable that the Chicago Botanic Garden has, for more than 30 years, used its unique resources to provide opportunities for healing, stress reduction, physical exercise, and learning through its Horticultural Therapy Services, a striking example of the work that museums and gardens do in their communities, work that is often unheralded.”

Learn more about our work with veterans in this video.


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org