The healing power of plants and gardens

The healing power of plants and gardens

Sometimes I wish I’d followed my father’s footsteps and become a doctor. The power of healing is a wondrous gift.

I arrived at this thought after watching a moving TV documentary revealing the miraculous impact on people’s lives of some simple medical procedures. A 10 year old boy born with cerebral palsy, told he would be forever confined to a wheelchair, underwent pioneering surgery that enabled him to walk for the first time in his life, much to his family's utter delight. In another case a middle-aged woman facing a life of complete isolation, from near total blindness compounded by fading hearing, was overwhelmed by the new life given to her by a cochlear implant.

I wish I could give sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf. But I can't. My calling lies with the natural world – so now I try to bring the healing power of plants through the gardens I design.

Plants and gardens have been associated with healing for a long time – as long ago as 3000 BC the Chinese used medical herbs, and the ancient Greeks built a temple to Aesclepius, their god of healing, set among mineral springs, bathing pools and healing gardens.

In more recent times the medical community around the world has rediscovered the healing power of gardens. Many hospitals and health care centres now incorporate green spaces, flower borders and views of gardens and have also added horticultural therapy programmes into patient treatment courses.

Whether tending to a houseplant, growing some flowers or turning an outdoor garden into a relaxing retreat, plants have the power to heal our body and our soul. Research has shown that working in the garden can benefit everyone. The physical efforts of gardening—digging, planting, bending and walking—are great forms of exercise to keep the body healthy.

Strenuous gardening such as digging or weeding not only burns calories, it is similar to weight training in building bones and preventing osteoporosis. Gardens and gardening activity can also improve mental outlook and our emotional mood by reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have found that gardening can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

A healing garden can take many forms but always provides interaction with nature. Visually plants provide inspirational colours or peaceful tones. We can hear the relaxing sound of water, the rustle of bamboo leaves or the stimulating activity of visiting wildlife. The rich aroma of fresh earth and the delightful scent of perfumed plants fill the air we breathe, while the fresh flavour of a crispy pea pod or sweet raspberry tempts our taste buds. We can touch the velvety smoothness of a flower petal or be touched by the movement of leaves in the wind.

Begin to create your own garden of healing today simply by planting a container filled with colourful flowers, a nutritious vegetable, or an herb such as lavender, sage, basil or thyme. In addition to being attractive and aromatic, these and many other herbs have been used medicinally for centuries. Watching and nurturing any plant as it grows provides power and energy to enhance your well-being.

outdoor entertaining garden
whirlpool sculpture