Master Gardeners have been providing the horticultural therapy program for rehab patients at WellStar Cobb Hospital since November of 1992. We are blessed to have a beautifully landscaped garden that is wonderful to visit in every season. The raised beds in our special work area make accessible gardening from the wheelchairs easy. The patients tend a wide variety of seasonal vegetables. The patients plant, mulch, water, weed, harvest and eat what we grow. We always take time to smell the herbs. Besides enjoying the differing aromas we talk about their uses in the kitchen today and how herbs have been used in history.
Gardening naturally lends itself to planning for the future which grows hope. As you face physical challenges or just the reality of getting older, it is quite empowering to be able to care for other living things – plants. Nutritionally it is exciting to grow your own organic foods. It makes cooking fun and exciting. As Master Gardeners we already knew that gardening was therapy for us but it has been rewarding to see the impact it can have on hospital patients and their families.
Spring is such a wonderful time of year for patients to visit and work in the garden. All the emerging plants and lovely flowers speak hope and encouragement into their lives. The excitement of pulling carrots and onions and digging for potatoes is naturally good medicine.
Other cool season veggies we grow include: sugar snap peas, lettuce, radish, kale and broccoli. Our outings show patients how they can continue gardening (or begin a new hobby) despite physical challenges by using raised beds, large pots and vertical trellising.
The patients so enjoy our weekly sessions in the garden. Just being outside in the fresh air is rejuvenating. But when a beautiful garden setting is the destination it really becomes memorable.
We find that standing endurance and strengthening exercises pass inside goals as they are so engaged in gardening that time passes quickly. Summer veggies include: tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peanuts, bush beans, Chinese yard long beans, cantaloupe, and watermelon. If we have time after playing in the dirt we head down to the gazebo by the pond to feed the Koi. By midsummer the water lilies are in full bloom and nearly cover the pond surface. Across from the gazebo the flowers in the butterfly garden are attracting everyone’s favorite winged insect.
The changing leaf color and cooler temperatures of fall help our patients stay in tune with the seasons. When inclement weather keeps us inside we continue with hort related crafts for the holidays. When MGs brighten the day of a hospital patient by taking them to work in the garden we are blessed in the doing. We work with patients for about an hour very Tuesday year round.