Gardening: Therapy for body and soul

January 05, 2011 11:50 am
If you’ve had the opportunity to scan the newly arrived seed catalogs, you have probably been as surprised as I have by the steep increase in price for seeds and plants, not to mention shipping charges.

Several companies appear to have doubled their inventory costs since last growing season, another good reason to buy seed locally.

The seed catalogs are a good way to increase your personal knowledge and try new plant varieties, however, so don’t throw them out yet. We just all need to be “smart shoppers”, especially knowing how good fresh produce tastes and how much cheaper it is, even with the initial increased costs.

On the lighter side, I have a confession to make. My daffodils are still in the bags, sprouting, in the cold pantry. No, I never got them planted, despite my best plans. I had another reader ask about tossing daffodils, or any spring-flowering bulb, if it wasn’t fall planted. Please don’t throw them away! They can still be planted this spring and will grow.

They may not, however, bloom, or bloom with normal sized flowers. But by next year they will have recovered to a normal cycle and will bloom when they are supposed to, with regular flower size.

This is also true of flower bulbs planted in pots for winter forcing. After the ground has thawed, go ahead and plant them out. It will take a full growing season for them to recover, but it’s worth it. They are also a good addition to a Memory Garden, especially when they were a gift from a loved one.

Memory Gardens can be as simple or as complex as your yard or patio, and imagination, allows. Many Memory Gardens are simple plantings of favorite starts or cuttings from relatives and loved ones that want to share what is dear to their hearts with you.

Memory Gardens can also be places of rest and solitude, with names of lost loved ones engraved on stones or plaques next to their favorite plants, with comfortable seating nearby. Another use for Memory Gardens is to stimulate the minds and physical activity of those who need worthwhile projects to encourage using their hands and legs as much as possible.

Commonly referred to as “Horticultural Therapy”(HT), it’s now an accepted and highly useful form of physical exercise that keeps us close to the soil and active, thereby giving us a sense of place and purpose. Many residential and institutional organizations recognize the benefits of HT and have year-round activities in place.

One of the most widely recognized Horticultural Therapy gardens in the United States is at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. Other hospitals have designed their Intensive or Critical Care Units along the perimeter of the building so that water features and landscaping can be viewed by the patients.

Statistics show that patient stays are shorter and the use of pain medication has decreased for those that have viewing access to peaceful and natural surroundings.

And isn’t that why we garden? It gives us food for our physical bodies, and food for our soul. Digging in the dirt is good for your heart.


Jennie Lu Hagen is a Grande Ronde Valley gardener and regular contributor to The Observer