Every eye, and nose, can appreciate a beautiful and tranquil garden. But, as Emory's Wesley Woods Hospital patients and employees will soon attest, gardens can also be an integral part of the physical and emotional healing process.
After months of planning and development, aided by thousands of dollars in donated plants, materials and labor by numerous vendors and benefactors, the Wesley Woods Horticultural Therapy Program will unveil its Legacy Garden on Thursday, Sept. 21.
In January, the Southeastern Flower Show donated the Legacy Garden to the Horticultural Therapy Program at Wesley Woods Hospital. The Legacy Garden is an annual gift from the Show to an organization in the Atlanta community that requests a garden area to meet the program objectives of their organization.
"The Legacy Garden will be a terrific addition to the existing horticultural therapy gardens and greenhouse we have used in patient treatment here at Wesley Woods," said Kirk Hines, horticultural therapist and rehabilitation therapy coordinator.
"This partnership between the Atlanta communities and the Southeastern Flower Show began 13 years ago as a way to enhance the environment and create a lasting site to both educate and engage members of the community. The Legacy Garden has evolved into a collaborative effort between the show, its exhibitors, Atlanta area businesses and civic and garden clubs. We're thrilled and honored that we were chosen this year to receive the Legacy Garden, and the benefits it will have for our patients, staff and visitors will truly be wonderful."
The garden was designed and installed for patient use and accessibility as a healing garden in conjunction with the Horticultural Therapy Program, said Hines. It contains plants that stimulate the senses and provide a calm, soothing environment. The garden was also designed and planted with heirloom plants that older adults with memory impairment would recall from childhood, and is enhanced by a hand-crafted arbor made by local artisans, along with benches and walkways.
"Wesley Woods Hospital's Horticultural Therapy Program really is a unique service and we are the only acute care hospital in Atlanta with horticultural therapy services delivered by a registered horticultural therapist," said Peter Basler, chief operating officer for Wesley Woods Center.
"There is a tremendous difference for a stroke patient re-learning to walk with a walker, for example, while exploring a peaceful and fragrant garden, in which many of the senses are stimulated, compared to walking back and forth in a gym. Additionally, we are studying the effectiveness of horticultural therapy to reduce agitation in dementia patients. I can think of no better setting in which to help get our patients back on the road to recovery."
Horticultural therapy is a form of clinical treatment for goal-directed patient therapy increasingly used in medical centers across the country, said Hines. The garden is also used for combined horticultural therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech pathology in the rehabilitation and treatment of many other conditions.
"The Legacy Garden will enhance our ability to use the ambulatory garden for horticultural therapy group and individual sessions by providing comfortable seating in the garden and a new group of plants selected for their ability to stimulate the senses and revive old memories," said Basler.
The Horticultural Therapy Program, founded in 1993, includes two courtyard gardens, a greenhouse, an ambulation garden and three florescent light units. The courtyard gardens, located in the psychiatry and neuropsychiatry units, are complete with sitting and standing height planters, paved surfaces, water features and meditation space. Patients may access them at any time to enjoy safely enclosed outdoor spaces. The greenhouse is designed with brushed concrete floors for walker and wheelchair mobility, sitting and standing height planting areas, and a climate control system to make it comfortable year-round.
Emory's Wesley Woods Hospital is a comprehensive acute care facility specializing in the healthcare needs of persons over age 65, including rehabilitation, medical, psychiatry, neuropsychiatry and long-term acute care.