Seeing Green – A Therapy Garden

A little over a year ago our friends at Agrium proposed the idea of having a therapy garden down at camp. We had heard how horticultural therapy benefits people of all ages and abilities, but also how it is growing in popularity as a programming option for people with disabilities.

When the idea was first presented to Katie (Program Manager) and I, we were so excited. Over the next few weeks we had so many ideas of the programming possibilities a garden would provide. Having little to no expertise in gardening myself, we recruited the help of a Horticultural Therapist. After meeting with Janet Melrose, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, our excitement began to grow even more.

Janet’s resume has worked on many projects from the ground up and was happy to share her expertise with us! (And hey, her company motto: Nurture. Grow. Bloom. Isn’t too different from our own!)

It took us about a year of planning to get phase one designed and we officially broke ground at the site in June of 2015 (not without the help of our friends at Agrium of course!). Many hours of digging, building and hauling were put in over the course of June and by the time camp started we were ready for planting!garden construction collage - after or beside paragraph 4

We put as much effort into our program planning as we did getting the physical garden ready for camp. Under the guidance of Janet, lesson plans were created and adapted for every age group and ability at camp. Our camp staff even got a lesson on how to properly plant a tomato plant!

We learned so much about developing a garden, horticultural therapy and what it can mean for Camp Bonaventure. The world of gardening is huge and I feel like being part of this process has opened up that world for me and I am starting to see how big (and impactful) of a project this garden can become for us at Between Friends.

What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy (HT) uses horticulture, plants and nature as a mode of therapy designed to improve the social, cognitive, physical, emotional, creative and spiritual health and well-being of individuals or groups.  It is an active, structured process done under the leadership of a trained therapist. The therapist, participants and caregivers work within a set of goals to improve the spirit, mind, and body of those involved.

Gardening connects people to nature on many levels from simple appreciation of beauty, through the satisfaction of growing food, and in deep spiritual experiences.  It can also be a socially engaging activity or a place where you can enjoy your own company. The multiple facets of gardening are a perfect vehicle with which to work with people to grow their skills, heal their spirits and foster engagement with the community as a whole. That being said, starting up some horticultural therapy programming at Between Friends fits right into our motto:  grow, connect, belong!

What can HT programming at Camp Bonaventure look like?

We’re really excited to take on this new project down at Camp Bonaventure. We hope to integrate gardening and its connection to the natural world into the culture of Camp Bonaventure.

This year’s programming was structured to focus on at least two of the five realms of Horticultural Therapy:

DSCN5109o          Cognitive – knowledge of gardening, plants, nature

o          Physical activity

o          Emotional – satisfaction, enjoyment

o          Social integration – making friends

o          Spiritual – connecting with nature

Tons of garden-related activities were implemented down at camp this year that proved to be fun for everyone. Every session Janet spent with a group surpassed our expectations.

Campers who seemed otherwise uninterested in other activities blossomed in the garden. Often spending the entire session focused on one task in the garden. Other campers bonded while completing a scavenger hunt in the garden together. And everyone showed off their pride once having completed planting something of their own.

DSCN5175Campers learned about planting and gardens, how to care for plants and nurture their growth. Every group created some take-away projects to bring home. We repurposed old shoes into flower pots and even made our own pickles!

Putting the Garden to Bed

The summer has come to an end, our fall harvest is done and we are putting the garden to bed for the winter. We’re all extremely pleased with how far the garden has come since the idea was presented and we can’t wait for how much we can grow in 2016!

Of course the garden project wouldn’t have ever been possible without help from our sponsor Agrium.

Explorers Harvesting Tomatoes rotatedAgrium has been a huge supporter of this project from the beginning. It was actually their idea! Without their support the new garden wouldn’t be possible. Volunteers from Agrium spent an entire afternoon digging the footprint of our garden so we could install the planters and accessible pathways.

Friends Church, the Northmount Kiwanis Club, the Hosie family, and Between Friends staff also played integral parts in getting our garden ready for the start of camp. Volunteers contributed time digging, building planter boxes and hauling mounds of dirt and gravel around.

We are thankful for everyone who has been involved in the garden this year. We’re hoping to expand our garden and programming in 2016. Make sure to pay attention to our newsletters so you can find out more!

  • Lindsey Nielsen, Planning Coordinator
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