A young artist, dying of pneumonia relates her fading state to that of an ivy plant losing its leaves everyday. She observes it routinely through her window and believes that she would die when the last leaf of the ivy vine drops – off. Consequently, the leaf never appears fallen – off and the ailing artist survives. A plant helps a dying person to recover ! This is the theme of a short story written by the famous American writer O.Henry in 1907. In modern times, this concept of treatment and rehabilitation by means of plants and trees is called ‘Horticultural Therapy’. ‘Growing with plants’ is the main idea of horticulture therapy. Horticulture therapy is nothing but engagement of an individual or a group of persons in plant based activities to achieve specific therapeutic goals facilitated by a trained therapist.
Need for horticulture therapy
The lifestyle of modern people has drastically changed. The connection with plants has been lost in the process of modernization. Horticulture appeals sensory features by way of attractive colors, taste, aroma and tactile (sense of touch). Horticultural therapy aims at improving the physical and mental well-being of a person. Horticultural therapy is implied over a diversified range of people from young to old which includes people with social and learning skills, rehabilitating from surgery or substance abuse, prison inmates, dementia, mental illness, heart disorders, visual impairment and all other issues related to stress and anxiety. The idea of hospitalization mostly sickens the spirit of an individual instead horticultural therapy rejuvenates the soul since plants are known to be the great healers..
When I inquired Mr.V. Karthikeyan, an horticultural therapist in ArtyPlantz Nature Revitalization Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore. He also feels that horticultural therapy is not restricted to persons with mental or physical illness instead all the human beings. Everyone needs to maintain a bond with nature. Horticultural therapy is usually given by professionals who has a sound knowledge in horticulture and has also human management skills. I asked him about the status of Horticulture Therapy in India, His reply was “As of now there is no professional courses for horticultural therapy in India. Based on the ability and healing requirement of the individuals, the programmes are designed”.
Essence of horticulture in horticultural therapy
Various aspects of horticulture like growing plants in pots and containers, Vertical gardening, hydroponics, nursery management, flower arrangement, terrariums, landscaping, sensory gardens, bonsai making, poly houses for year round production, use of essential oil from aromatic plants (aroma therapy), etc., finds application in horticultural therapy.
Outcomes of horticulture therapy
It is proved that gardening can help to improve cognitive skills as well as physical and psychological behavior of a person. Indulging in physical activities provides adequate exercise to our body, thus increasing muscular strength and motor skills. Appropriate gardening tools are used to help weak patients to regain strength. On seeing our plant’s growth, self confidence of a person is boosted. Children who involve themselves in gardening become mentally active and show improved physical endurance, team spirit and active socializing. Interaction while gardening improves social skills. Horticultural therapy increases self esteem, independence, observation skills and problem solving skills. Studies say that positive mood of an individual was restored after gardening. Besides, it also helps the people to earn for their livelihood.
Thus horticulture therapy is a unique art of healing mind and body. It enhances people’s quality of life by creating a bond with nature.
A.Rahima is a Horticultural graduate. Working as an Agricultural Extension Officer in Canara Bank. She is also a passionate gardener. firstname.lastname@example.org
➡ (This article was originally published in ‘The Agraria’ e-Magazine. You can Subscribe it by clicking here)