We are now familiar with the idea of horticultural therapy but how does the concept of a healing garden differ from this? I went to Sweden and Denmark to find out.
The healing gardens I visited all specialise in the rehabilitation of people suffering severe stress, including ‘burnout’ in professionals and post-traumatic stress in ex-military combatants. Essential the healing garden provided a safe space to help recovery based on the individual needs of participants. The results from several years of research show remarkable success.
Anne Dahl Refshauge from Nacadia the Healing Garden attached to Horsholm Arboretum described how the ten week programme takes participants on a healing journey. At the start many do not want the company of others and can immerse themselves in nature in a series of safe and comfortable garden ‘rooms’. There are also opportunities to participate in activities including gardening, meditation and mindfulness training, but the direct contact with nature is the unique aspect of the work. It appears that diversity is important with areas with a wide variety of species being most popular.
I saw the gardens I visited during the height of summer but for all year use they all have indoor spaces as well. At Nacadia this was in a large greenhouse with pond, kitchen, hammocks and most importantly two wood burning stoves. As the aim is to help participants back into mainstream society the communal spaces are used, as the programme progresses, for bringing people together in more sociable activities.