LIFE

Horticultural therapy: A green gateway to wellness

HORTICULTURAL THERAPY: A GREEN GATEWAY TO WELLNESS
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If you want to plant rice seed, you need a wetland to yield product. But, in horticultural therapy, all you need is an outdoor area to harvest health.

Horticultural therapy is a professional practice to improve the mental and physical health of people by means of gardening activities.

It helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization.

In a therapeutic garden, the participants enjoy a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.

Taichung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station in Taiwan's western Changhua County constructed a healing garden, a sub-type of therapeutic gardens, two years ago.

"We started this work because you know people always become more and more anxious on the pace of life," Hsueh-Shih Lin, the director-general of the station, said.

"So, we try to make a garden for those people to walk around, see other friends and our design. We also have some agricultural activities, coordinated with the garden," he added.

A sensory-oriented plant selection focused on color, texture, and fragrance is among the basic features of a therapeutic garden.

Lin said that the healing garden stimulates different senses -- sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

Special selection of flowers

Passing through a wide path -- complying with the basics of the therapeutic garden -- the visitors first came across the sight section.

Chia-Chin Hsu, the park manager, said that special selection of flowers was made for the healing garden.

In the section appealing to the sight, Hsu said: "Here, we select a special color. We arrange the plants in a particular pattern and light frame."

The therapeutic garden utilizes the interaction between people and plants at its best. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and users' needs.

The garden offers its visitors arbor for group conversations or a bench for all-alone resting. Between the arbor and the bench, there is a pond sheltering some colorful fishes.

"In this place, you can concentrate on your thinking and put your work aside," Hsu said.

Also mentioning the research activities in the station, Hsu told the test applied on the colleagues.

"First of all, we give them a small sheet of paper full of words and let them only three minutes to figure out how many words are on it. That makes you feel under pressure.

"After that test, we let them six-minute walk around the garden and give them another test. By doing this, we can figure out how much pressure they could set aside," Hsu said.

The results of the exam suggest that pressure on the participants reduced after their walk around the garden.

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