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Therapeutic Garden

The Healer, a garden scupture made by a patient
Client's role in Craig's healing gardens

"Therapeutic gardens are outdoor gardens specifically designed based on evidence to meet the physical, psychological and social needs of the people using the gardens. " -- National Parks Board, Singapore.

Nature for health is noting brand new. WHO has mentioned the functions of greeneries for leisure, improved air quality, and preventing the accumulation of heat, which contributed to health. But it is not the end of the list.

A bit of human history with gardens. Ahead the predominace of the biomedical model in the 19th century, gardens has been associated to healing, wellness and longevity in numerous ancient civilizations, say China and Egypt.

The worship towards biological focus has been sole for a century. However the scholars soon started questioning the reductionistic scope of the biomedical model. One typical model of health was the biopsychosocial model proposed in 1977 by George L. Engel. In 1984, Roger Ulrich conducted a study on the recovery of patients from surgery, and provided quantified evidences that natural scenery had positive effect to patients, such as shorter post-operative hospital stays; took less medication etc. It was the first but definitely not the last published modern medical research documenting the medical function of greeneries.

Defined by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, therapeutic gardens are "designed for use as a component of a treatment program such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or horticultural therapy programs and can be considered as a subcategory of a healing garden." In which healing gardens are "plant dominated environments including green plants, flowers, water, and other aspects of nature. They are generally associated with hospitals and other healthcare settings, designated as healing gardens by the facility, accessible to all, and designed to have beneficial effects on most users."

Nowadays in the US, lots of healthcare and rehabilitative premises were equiped with healing gardens or therapeutic gardens. Some of them, like Craig Hospital and NYU Medical Center, have in-house horticultural therapists. Among Asia, the number of gardens with similar function is blooming as well. For example in Singapore, the first therapeutic garden was opened at HortPark on 14 May 2016. In 2006, Kanagawa, Japan, a luxury elderly home named Comfort Garden Azamino (コンフォートガーデンあざみ野) was opened within 7 themed gardens, a total of 9900 square meter healing garden, running regular HT programmes and events for their elderlies. The Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Garden, the largest rooftop healing garden in Thailand, was firstly seated by Ramathibodi Hospital users and in July, 2015. Every diagnosis is different, therefore every garden is a little different.

The benefits of having therapeutic gardens with health care settings are obvious. We observed many therapeutic gardens running in Taiwan and China too. However ones should not forget the cost of having a new garden. Gardens lack of maintainance will cause hazards to the users, the attached buildings and even the neigbourhood. Decision makers needs to work thoroughly with the designer to come up with a garden that suits their users and budget.


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