Across the Fence

with Ann Brooke

Nature is the best medicine: garden therapy

Running water and soft plantings make a restful combination

Running water and soft plantings make a restful combination

I grew up in a family where no-one ever fought, and even a loud argument was unusual. What we did when we were upset was to leave the house and go for a walk until we felt better. Denial? Repression? Maybe, but the way I remember it was as a chance to put my probably trivial woes into a more universal perspective. It’s hard to stay cranky when the sun’s shining and the birds are singing. That’s the healing power of nature.

In a literal way, the natural world proves a potent ingredient in stimulating recovery for hospital patients. Research shows that patients who can see a tree or a garden outside the window of their hospital room recover faster, need fewer medications, and have stronger vital signs than those who cannot.

Some years ago I went to visit my father when he was hospitalized. Every room in this modern Australian hospital looked out onto a courtyard with a bush garden including a small pond, trees, benches and paths – and people, both patients and visitors, enjoying it. The atmosphere in that place of illness and anxiety was calm, friendly and relaxed. Everyone I spoke to commented on how much the garden meant to them and how much it helped humanize an otherwise frightening experience.

Such a simple and generous idea, the nurturing power of the natural world, and so rarely given institutional expression.

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