The Coastal Gardener:

Gardens act as therapeutic escapes

October 03, 2008|By RON VANDERHOFF

More than ever, in today’s chaotic time, with Wall Street in crisis, presidential campaign rhetoric filling the news, retirement accounts dwindling, real estate foreclosures and bank instability dominating the day, it is the garden that calls for our attention.

Garden- ers already know it; their garden is their escape. Gardens just make us feel better.

Eva Shaw, author of “Shovel It: Nature’s Health Plan,” says that gardening reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and helps fight depression. She gardens just south of us, in Carlsbad.

Kaiser-Permanente did a research study, measuring the brain waves of two groups of people. One group was quiet and prayed. The other went to a garden to pull weeds. Both groups had similar brain waves, which led researchers to conclude that gardening had the same therapeutic effect as contemplation and meditation.


Gardening reduces stress and can put a mind and a body at peace. Patients’ wounds heal faster and they require fewer pain killers and antidepressants when they are merely looking at a painting of a garden. Imagine the effect a real garden could have.

Gardening is an enjoyable activity. You can create your garden to fit your personal style. It feels good when we create something beautiful.

The sights and smells of a garden produce a calming effect. Bright-colored flowers make people feel happy.

Being outside and breathing in the oxygen-rich air along with the fragrance of the flowers and soil can be deeply relaxing. Your troubles seem to melt into the garden.

The sun shining down on you can make your experience in the garden even more enjoyable. Besides the feeling of warmth, you’re getting vitamin D, which helps improve your mood.

The role of the plants and gardens as stress relievers is ancient. In 3000 B.C. the Chinese were using herbs.

The Greeks built healing gardens and a temple for Asclepius, their god of healing. Green was a sacred color in ancient Egypt and represented new vegetation and life.

In colonial America, the Quakers believed that gardens were a place of creativity for the mind and body.

Growing plants was a way to relax and restore the soul. One of the first programs to use plants in a therapeutic setting was established in 1879 at a Philadelphia Hospital after a physician noticed that psychiatric patients, working in the hospital’s fields and flower gardens, were calmer and the gardens had a “curative” effect on them.

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