I believe nature can heal. Apparently, I’m not the first person to think this. The Friends Asylum in Philadelphia opened in 1813. Founder Thomas Scattergood provided patients with private rooms adorned with windows, liberty to walk the institution’s grounds, and work in the farm and kitchen gardens. The Northern Michigan Asylum located in Traverse City, Michigan, which is now a lovely Botanic Garden, was built with this same philosophy, many decades before the discovery of psychiatric drugs. It’s founding Medical Superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, wanted patients to be treated differently. Instead of using physical restraints or confining patients to dark quarters, Munson placed vases of fresh flowers throughout the facility and made sure each person’s sleeping quarters offered lots of natural light and views to the outside grounds.
In his 1912 essay John Burroughs said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” If you’ve ever declared that you need to take a walk outside to clear your head, you can relate to this statement. During the seemingly never ending COVID lockdowns, many people felt isolated. Yet for others like me, access to nature gave us a respite. We were reminded of the critical role that gardens play in our survival.
A Garden Conservancy News article from September of 2022 featured an article on Healing Gardens. I learned of several healthcare facilities that include both indoor and outdoor gardens designed to heal visitors both physically and mentally. For example, The Crown Sky Garden at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital includes an indoor garden on the 11th floor with pathways, piped in forest sounds, LED lights that create images of moving water and a breeze maintained by large ceiling fans.
I’m glad to see a conscious effort to include gardens as part of a building plan, especially since it’s hard to measure the value of a garden on a spreadsheet. We all know that gardens are expensive to implement and require constant maintenance to look their best. Yet in my opinion, we must give every person that connection to the natural world. When I see someone speeding down the road unnecessarily, or being unkind, I think to myself, “That person needs some garden therapy.” And I mean it.
Please join me in doing your part. Open your garden to visitors and expose them to the healing that beauty can provide. Gather a bouquet of flowers and present it to a friend. Or just post of lovely picture of your garden on social media. Do what you can to help heal mankind and make our world a happier, healthier place. Beauty is therapy and we all need more of it.