A healing garden is a garden that contains the intention within the construction and utilization for healing. Often they are located on hospital grounds or in medical facilities for the patients, family and staff. Installations often include elements that are psychologically soothing such as a water feature or walking labyrinth and of course lots of plants.
The biophilia hypothesis suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. We are inherently created to find nature soothing and restorative. I have always found this to be very much the case for myself. One of my earliest memories is of the huge, fuzzy poppy buds that grew along the side of the house my family was living in at the time. They were a tactile delight and magically exploded into the largest most colorful orange flowers. My egocentric 4 year old self at the time was sure that these special flowers were there for the sole purpose of adding to my happiness.
My healing garden summer 2014.
Even if your childhood experience with nature was different from my own there is plenty of evidence to support the biophilia hypothesis. Plants clean our air, give us food, medicine and are aesthetically pleasing! Researchers have concluded that exposure to gardens and nature have been linked to the promotion of stress reduction, symptom relief, and an improvement of overall wellbeing and hopefulness. Gardens encourage physical activity, facilitate in social interaction and give the satisfying feeling of control. They also stimulate feelings of connectedness.
My rose garden in full bloom.
How to create your own healing garden.
Designate a garden spot. It might be a corner of your back yard or a pot of dirt in your apartment’s living room. Even the tiniest apartment can accommodate a small potted plant! No excuses, this can literally be done anywhere.
Compile the needed ingredients. Growing medium which is dirt in the ground or potting medium for a container. Choose plants that you are drawn to and that are suitable for the light level of your spot. If you are creating an indoor healing garden away from south windows choose plants that thrive in shade. If you have a sunny spot but tend to forget watering a succulent garden may be perfect for you. Plants need water, air and fertilizer. There are plenty of great websites about gardening so I won’t go into that here. It’s easy, don’t over think it.
Set your intention for the healing garden. Your intention is personalized to you and your situation. It might be something general like “to bring peace and wellness into my life” or very specific like “to ease my arthritis”. This is your healing garden and it is special to you.
Volunteer fungi in one of my house plants.
Take a minute to think about an animal or symbol that you have a special affinity for and find a way to add it to your garden. Depending on your religion or spiritual practices you might want to add a statue of Jesus, Mother Mary, a fairy or the Laughing Buddha. A metal butterfly or a special stone can be placed in your garden. You could paint a ladybug on the side of the pot containing your garden or add a metal sign with your favorite sports team. Bury a crystal in the dirt where only you know of its secret hiding place. Hang a St. Christopher medal from the side of the pot or in the branch of a tree. The point is to make sure the healing garden has special meaning to you. I have angels in mine.
My daughter and her "Fairy Garden"
Lovingly tend your garden and it will lovingly tend you right back. Water, weed and fertilize. Appreciate and love your garden. Spend time in or near your garden! Pray or meditate in your garden. Sit in or near your garden with a glass of wine or tea. Have your morning coffee in your garden. Do yoga in your garden. Make your garden part of your day.
Admittedly I am a little unorthodox but I play music for my plants, talk to them and even offer Reiki energy to them. When I learned of Cleve Backster's experiments with plant's it only reinforced what I have always felt to be true. Plants are living, breathing beings that we share this earth with. I have blessed the ground, held bonfires on the full moon and prayed over my plants. I have called in the angels of heaven and created portals of love energy in my gardens. Hopefully some of that makes up for the cursing of quack grass, expletives during surprise rose thorn attacks and occasional neglect.
If a plant dies lovingly release it to your compost heap or garbage can and get a new one. Gardens are ever changing and perfectly imperfect which is tantamount to the road of life. A reminder to appreciate the journey and welcome change. A lesson in hopefulness as there is always next year, next season and the changing weather of tomorrow. As we evolve on our individual paths of life let nature soothe your soul and offer solace for it knows your struggle as its own.
A crab apple tree in my back yard on a cold February morning.