Gardening is a great activity for many reasons, including physical and mental health, and according to the Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance, gardening can help you “go beyond your limits.” Since 2017 they have been helping people with physical and cognitive disabilities to engage in gardening and nature in their Ability Garden at Callanwolde Arts Centre. Now, Trellis is launching a new project in collaboration with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, bringing “adaptive gardening” to people with spinal cord injuries. Trellis co-founder Rachel Cochran and Botanical Garden community outreach manager Moe Hemmings joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about how the organizations will work together to bring gardening to new communities.
On the therapeutic value of gardening:
“One of the beauties of gardening is that there’s no age limit,” Cochran said. “Children love the garden. Middle-aged people like me like to garden and old people like gardening. So we can really serve a wide range of ages within the garden setting. Gardens have the ability to connect us to the earth. Just having your hands in the ground is a brain boost that actually lifts your mood. The physical work of gardening does us good.
“I think it refocuses the mind,” she added. “He pushes you in a way that’s nice. Unlike, you know, I look at some of the clinical therapies when you’re in a physical therapy session at a clinic or something. You’re just in all that motivating frame that makes you feel good… Just showing up can change your day in a positive direction.
What is adaptive gardening?
“Adaptive gardening is a way to make it more accessible to all different kinds of levels. So, for example, the Ability Garden at Trellis is built higher than you might think of in terms of a traditional raised garden bed, [for] someone who might be in a wheelchair or might have a little more difficulty bending over or getting too low on the ground,” Hemmings explained. “The average raised garden bed is only about a foot or two feet high. These I believe…are about three and a half feet high, so if you’re sitting on a bench or, again, in a wheelchair, you don’t have to stretch your body any further to get into bed.
“Everything about Ability Garden was designed with the wheelchair user really in mind,” Cochran said. “One of the problems with a lot of community gardens is that they use a lot of wood chips to cover the ground and make paths. And so, to accommodate a wheelchair, you really need to have a nice compacted path. So we spend a lot of time and resources creating these walkways where a wheelchair could roll smoothly and access all parts of the garden. »
Happy gardeners who find the green thumb:
“One of the veteran stories that really touched me was of a man who only came a few times and was in a lot of pain. And he basically told us that he had to get his wife to drive him and he woke up that morning just in a lot of pain, and just didn’t think he could get out of it,” recalls Cochran. “So he… got up, had breakfast, got dressed, came into the garden, could barely move. And then I saw them at the end of the session, and I’m not kidding, the man was literally dancing a jig. He said that garden experience that morning made him feel so much better, that he was so glad he came.
For more information on the Callanwolde Arts Center’s Ability Garden and current Trellis projects, visit trellista.org.