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Gardens are the Best Therapy

I will never forget the message on the answering machine. “Your mother has suffered a significant stroke…” It seemed like forever to drive the 45 minutes it required to get to the hospital.

She had, indeed suffered a large stroke. Fortunately, she received quick and appropriate care and started getting back movement and strength in her right arm and leg quickly. Her ability to communicate also began to improve but not at the same rate. First, she could manage just sounds. Then, the sounds joined together to make words. Words became phrases – if she didn’t think about them. The more she thought about what she wanted to say, the more garbled the output became. The words escaped her.

Fast forward a week later to Marionjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. I learned there was a garden at the facility. Even if it wasn’t a spectacular garden, I thought, she would at least enjoy spending time outside so off we went.

The enabling garden was more than I could have ever hoped for. It was filled with the sounds of falling water and birds chirping and bursting with colorful flowers and foliage.

We had quite a speech therapy lesson in the garden. Many times, she couldn’t remember the names of plants as we admired and stroked them. Other times, she couldn’t put together the sounds to name them when she did. So, together, we named and talked about every one…

This is dusty miller and coleus. “Oh yes,” she replied.

The astilbes are so pretty, aren’t they? “So pretty,” she agreed.

Let’s rub the lavender foliage. It’s smells so good. “Mmm,” as she breathed in the fragrance.

Look at those Ligularia seedlings in the cracks of the bricks. “Uh oh,” she giggled.

Can you say catmint? “Catmint,” she tried.

Then she noticed a weed growing in the middle of the patch of catmint and pulled it. Always the gardener!

When we rounded a corner she stopped, got a huge smile on her face and as clear as could be she said, “Lamb’s ear,” before leaning over to pet the fuzzy leaves.

We spent over an hour talking about plants and gardening. She didn’t even notice we were practicing sounds to retrain mouth and tongue muscles, naming things in the garden to strengthen the connection between words and objects and answering questions to improve cognitive function. We were just mother and daughter enjoying a walk through a beautiful garden as we have so many times before.

A lot of therapy goes on within the walls of Marionjoy Rehabilitation Hospital every day, but that afternoon my mom and I spent in the garden was the best therapy for both of us.

But then all gardeners know…gardens are the best therapy. Garden with me!

18 thoughts on “Gardens are the Best Therapy

  1. I used to work at Marionjoy. That is where I first met dragonwing begonias. Then I started planting them in pots on my driveway. They still make me smile each time I see them. Flowers are a wonderful morale booster. I used to take a few blooms in season to the patients that I knew & was always rewarded with a smile. I’m really glad they helped in your mother’s recovery.

  2. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing this story about your lovely mother and that incredible, healing garden.

  3. The teacher in you will never be gone. Your compassion and ability to use teachable moments to benefit others has always been a strength. Your mom is very lucky to have you and vice versa. Your post made me tear up. I will pray for your mom‘s speedy recovery.

  4. David was almost transferred to Marianjoy after his surgery several weeks back. Though he definitely is not a gardener, I’m sure he would have found solace in their gardens. I’m glad to hear your mom is on the mend and enjoys her outings in their gardens.

    1. Thanks, Betty. She is back home now enjoying her own gardens on walks outside. Time will tell how much of her speech will return but we are hopeful!

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