Monday, September 10, 2007

Healing Gardens for Better Health

I was reading a very interesting article, in the May 2007 issue of Southern Living magazine. Throughout hospital campuses across the South, there are healing gardens thriving. The purpose is to provide a tranquil setting where patients can escape "their sterile environment and connect with the environment." The article focused particularly on the healing garden established at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston, TX. The garden is called the Chrysalis Project, and "contains a scattering of pocket-size beds carefully designed to attract butterflies."

The project was spearheaded by Chris LaChance, a cancer survivor, whose own experience at the Cancer Center inspired her to create the butterfly garden. When she was receiving treatment at the hospital, it only had a small planting area at the entrance. But "it gave her the kiss of nature that she needed." As Chris says, "When I sat out there watching a butterfly or a bird taking a seed from a bush, I would start thinking about how happy I was to be alive. It gave me such comfort to be connected with nature. It was an affirmation that life goes on after cancer." She says that she started the project because "I wanted to give that feeling of comfort to those who were going through the chaos of cancer. I wanted to give them a place where they could go and put it all aside." As she explains, "Things are living, growing. Everything is not dying. These little nuggets of respite offer moments of bliss. You can string these nuggets together to empower you." Chris also reflected that "cancer changes you. As you are going through it, things are forming and changing like in a chrysalis. There is a loss of innocence, and you know life is finite. But after cancer, you come out a complete jewel. You are stronger, more aware of life."

The article points out that the Chrysalis Project is unique because of the butterflies. Lots of healing gardens have shrubs, flowers, and benches, but not everyone allows you to see the metamorphosis of change provided by butterflies. Equally impressive, is that "the Chrysalis Project is totally organic, using no pesticides or harmful chemicals"; which makes sense especially in a medical community.

There were two health benefits emphasized in the article, that can be gained by healing gardens:
  • Viewing nature can help reduce stress in three minutes or less.

  • Research suggests that surgical patients who have views of nature experience quicker recovery with fewer minor complications.

After reading the article, I realized that all of us can benefit from our own personal healing garden, even if you do not have a serious illness. We are all vulnerable to stress, and the effects of just having a very bad day. It certainly brightens my day, and helps me relieve stress when I come home and look around at the roses, flowers, and other growing things in my yard. And don't let a butterfly pass by! A butterfly really does represent metamorphosis; things change, they don't always stay the same, situations can change for the better. Life does go on!

Click on the Link to view work in progress at the Chrysalis Project healing garden in Houston, TX.

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At 12:03 PM, Blogger Kerri said...

There's no place like the garden for a bit of stress relief. It's great therapy.
Thanks for visiting and I'm glad you enjoyed seeing our upstate NY garden. We do have lots of space, which is nice.
It's a beautiful day here so I'm off to do a little thinning of perennials and moving a few plants.
I hope with the cooler weather you can get your garden "tamed" a little :)

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous the feathered nest said...

That was an interesting article! I know for me that viewing a bit of nature puts me in a better frame of mind at times of stress.


At 9:04 PM, Blogger Gardenista said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Gardening certainly relieves stress and is a wonderful activity. I once worked at a Vancouver hospital whose hospice unit had a rooftop garden. One terminally ill patient wished to die amid the garden with the rain falling on him. He got his wish. How beautiful.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Curtis said...

So very true. The gardens and nature do help in the healing process. I think for gardeners, the plants give back more than we can give them.

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) said...

I can't think of any environment more healing than a garden. I know that I often seek solace and solitude in mine. It helps me feel centered and grounded.

I also find it interesting that the Chrysalis Project is in Houston...a city I usually think of as one huge pile of concrete. I can't think of a city that needs it more.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Hi Rose,

Thanks for visiting my garden blog.

I don't know how it will work in the hospital setting, but my friends know that if the drive to their house was a stressful one, upon arrival I'll need to walk around their garden talking to trees and plants for few minutes. The green stuff does calm us down!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

At 4:25 AM, Blogger Kerri said...

Rereading this article made me appreciate even more what Chris LaChance is doing...sharing an experience that was beneficial and delightful to her. That's why I enjoy blogging so much. Sharing gardens and thoughts with like-minded people is a joy. And nature is so full of delights! I could spend hours watching butterflies, birds, bees, etc. in our garden.
They're a delightful bonus to the flowers and plants.
I'm glad you enjoyed the bright colors and flowers of our late summer gardens. There's still quite a lot of flowers blooming due to the wonderful burst of warm weather we've had lately. It's kept me from posting as often as I'd like to :) There's so much to share!! The trees have begun to turn and we have some beautiful Fall colors already.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

I've heard many a gardener say that by gardening they don't need a therapist. Lovely post Rose and o so true!

At 3:25 AM, Blogger Bare Bones Gardener said...

The benefits from such a small outlay, for so many people who have other more pressing matters always impresses me

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Nikos Kazantzakis wrote of his encounter with an almond tree. “And I said to the almond tree, Sister, speak to me of God. And the almond tree blossomed.”

Thus is the miracle of nature. Gardens are definitely healing places. Sara gets the occasional headache. Instead of taking a pill, she goes and works in the garden. Given a therapeutic hour of kneeling in the dirt, she comes back replenished and rejuvenated. “Headache? What headache?”

Sara and I garden organically on Gabriola Island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. We feed out plants the absolutely best food that we could find, Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom made by the Advanced Nutrients company.

Please visit our blog to see the photos and read about our adventures growing flowers and vegetables in our Pacific Coast environment. We also have cancer in our family, and Sara and I are doing our best to avoid the Big C.

Since disease is basically a lack of ease, we minimize stress in our lives by eating well, getting plenty of exercise and rest, and keeping an optimistic outlook. We feed our plants Organic B, an excellent selection of B vitamins that reduce plant stresses of every kind.

We try to treat the plants in our garden with the respect due any other living being. I talk to my tomatoes and Sara talks to her roses. Plants feel it when you feel affection toward them. And their blooms do remind us of the grandeur of the Creator.

At 7:27 AM, Anonymous deemarie said...

I am a firm believer in gardens being beneficial to your health. I always com out of my gardens feeling happy and energized. Wonderful article! Denise

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Nicola said...

A wonderful article, nature is so soothing and healing. A lot less would be spent on anti-depressants and anxiety drugs if more people spent time in natural surroundings.

Even a few houseplants to tend, or some pots on a balcony can make an extraordinary difference to one's emotional well being.




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