Collaboration for Health

October 2, 2017 Horticulture Department

Gardens and hospitals are both recognized as places of healing, but it’s not always obvious how the two can work together.

As the therapeutic horticulture intern for Denver Botanic Gardens this summer, I not only worked in the York Street Sensory Garden, but I also trained with the horticultural therapist at Craig Hospital. This collaboration offers a blended learning environment with unique opportunities for growth.

Denver Botanic Gardens approaches the healing effects of nature by completely immersing and engulfing visitors in thoughtfully designed gardens. The Sensory Garden is filled to the brim with fascinating plants that engage all of the senses, not just sight. One of the projects I accomplished this summer was to create a self-guided tour to help the visitors get the most out of their time in the Sensory Garden. The tour highlights key sensory features of the garden, along with some facts about the plants they will encounter.

I encourage all the visitors to the Gardens to come to the Sensory Garden and try out this new guide to see how in-touch you are with your senses! You might be amazed at what gets overlooked. The sensory tour can be found on the Gardens Navigator website.

Horticulture therapy at Craig Hospital focuses on accomplishing specific patient goals before they are discharged from the hospital. These goals could be anything from increasing fine motor skills to finding more adaptable ways to get out and keep doing the things they love to do, like gardening. For some patients, recovering the ability to garden after a traumatic injury could be just as therapeutic as learning to walk again. The patients look beyond the limitations of their accident and gain a new outlook on their abilities.

Through my exposure to both therapeutic horticulture programs I was able to invite an outpatient of Craig Hospital to work with me as a volunteer once a week in the Sensory Garden. This gave me the chance to work with a patient on specific skills in an immersive garden setting. Gardening is a passion of hers and working closely with me and other volunteers and staff has provided her with the opportunity to work on other therapies, like occupational therapy and speech therapy that are helpful to her recovery.

The partnership between the Gardens and Craig Hospital is a perfect example of how collaboration leads to innovation, and how our connections with the natural world are both strong and necessary for a healthier life.

This post was contributed by Horticulture Therapy Intern Kristina Gehrer

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