Therapeutic gardens: making the most of a garden’s virtues

24 May 2017

It is true that all gardens do you good. And it is also true that Parks are the lungs of a city! So if they are a breath of fresh air when we need it, why not include them in health institutes? More and more of them, like the Jardins Art et Soin association, are convinced of their benefits. And that’s why there are more and more therapeutic gardens which are very enjoyable to walk in … but not only that.

What is a therapeutic garden?

Therapeutic gardens are not the same as medicinal gardens in which plants with therapeutic virtues are cultivated. Therapeutic gardens are complete gardens with surroundings and layouts which help sick people to get well or simply to stimulate their senses, their focus of interest, their memory or their legs to improve their feel-good factors. Therapeutic gardens welcome the elderly, patients undergoing re-education and the psychologically fragile, autistic patients or patients suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer. They are located in Health Centres like retirement homes, mental homes, wellness centres, etc. A therapeutic garden exists in an addictology centre in Saint Vaury in the Creuse, France.

A host of recognised benefits

The therapeutic garden concept starts from the idea that all plants relax. Parks, for example, are known to improve the quality of life, overcome fatigue and relieve stress. 80% of the French people believe that it is beneficial to live near a park or garden! Additionally, studies have shown that the smallest plant on the smallest patch of grass has a positive therapeutic impact on patients (1). So imagine the power of a garden specifically designed for patient care! This is why structures like the Jardin Art et Soin association specialise in the design of gardens which cure. Designs are based on therapeutic levers or rather several elements which improve each patient’s wellbeing depending on their pathology. Just walking in a green area is already essential for the well-being of some patients and elderly people. Gardens restore serenity in a place that is safe. Centre staff can also use other original therapies to calm and treat:

  • Horticultural therapy (STH) uses gardening to help restore self-dependence and stimulate the memory in older people
  • Stimulation of the senses is used in the Saint Quirin therapeutic gardens to help in stimulating the memory (of the senses and when they were younger) of patients suffering from Alzheimer
  • Stimulation of the legs on a health walking trail reproducing the difficulties encountered on ordinary walks, etc.

Who to design a therapeutic garden

As Professor Alain Calender, founder of Jardin Art et Soin, says « you design gardens to match patient types ». For the elderly and Alzheimer sufferers the aim is to stimulate their senses. For younger patients, suffering from autism, for example, the idea is to attract their attention, their vigilance but not to hyperstimulate which could make them anxious. Therapeutic gardens amplify the virtues of classic gardens through the integration of:

  • Sense-stimulating plants: smell by aromatic plants, taste with fruits, touch with plants having a texture, sight with colours and shapes and hearing with plants that attract birds
  • Prefabricated health or motricity circuits or the construction of a trail with different kinds of paving ;
  • Horticultural therapy areas to exploit the therapeutic benefits of

And, of course, as the people using therapeutic gardens tend to be fragile, another essential design aspect is safety. As you can see in these types of garden there is, first and foremost, the therapeutic aspect highlighted by good creativity and the technical aspect essential for keeping patients safe.

The theme of the Carré des Jardiniers 2017 contest held by the Paysalia show, dedicated to professionals is « Doctor Garden takes good care of you ». The professionals competing this year will be scored on their creativity and technicity… If you agree that this is fascinating come to the show - December 5 to 7 2017 – to admire the gardens prepared by the contestants during Paysalia!

See the program of the show


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