Our writing is a labour of love, a way to share the fascinating world of horticulture with others through blogs, articles and ebooks.
The Virens blog is all about the best in modern gardening culture. Presented free of charge, as a way to build and foster gardening magic both in Vancouver, Canada, and further afield.
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Sara-Jane & Alica at Virens Studio
ps You can also find us on Substack at virensstudio.substack.com
Therapeutic Gardening is Serious Fun
Jan 28, 2022
Gardening can seriously effect your mental and physical health, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun and engaging at the same time.
A recent study suggests that 1/3rd of Canadians are struggling with mental health due to covid-fatigue. Gardens provide a safe, comfortable space where we can find wellness regardless of socio-economic status, age, ability or skill level with zero negative effects. Studies show that horticulture has positive associations “for a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, stress, mood disturbance,… as well as increases in quality of life, sense of community, physical activity levels, and cognitive function”. In fact, the value of therapeutic horticulture is so great that many countries now offer nature/parks prescriptions to encourage its use as a preventative measure.
At Virens Studio, we have experienced all of this firsthand, so we thought that we would share some fantastic ideas that we’ve come across that are both fun and therapeutic. So give yourself and others the permission to slow down and enjoy connecting with plants. As always, do what you can, when and how you can and adapt them as you please. Every little bit builds into a positive effect on a cumulative scale, so get involved indoors, outdoors and with whatever materials you can source locally. And don’t forget to invite others to share the experience and fun.
Leaf & Flower Art
simple– Leaves and flowers can be dried in a book or press and then glued to scrap paper to create all kinds of creatures, scenes and figures. let your mind wander and make up stories as you go. Do they have names? where do you think they live?
moderate – Really give into your imagination with a floral collage. Play with scale, texture and colour and don’t be afraid to flip, twist and invert the plant material to see it in a truly new way. Take your time and let go.
simple – Next time you have hedge clippings, leaves or green waste, why not make a labyrinth before you compost it. Grab a rake and map out a simple shape like a spiral. Then take a deep breath and feel the breeze as you follow the path.
moderate – Try a more difficult pattern this time and mow it into the lawn. This takes a little more concentration but lasts longer. And don’t worry, as the grass fills in you can try a totally different design. It’s also a fantastic way to leave patches of taller grass and any flowering plants that you might want to over-seed your turf with (beautiful and great for pollinators) Bellis, Achillea and micro clover are all amazing choices.
vigorous – Get involved, turn an unused space into a full blown labyrinth! Use what you’ve got handy or can source locally, rocks, recycled brick or hedging are all good choices for a more permanent meditative maze. It’s a tool that you can use again and again to remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the moment.
simple – Next time you’re out doing yard work or forest bathing, collect what’s around you, twigs, flowers and leaves, seeds or pebbles. Then find a space and create your own mandala. Start at a central point and work your way out, feeling your way along while you create a contemplative design.
moderate – For a more intense meditation, fill a bowl or any container that will hold water and try floating your plant materials this time. Flowers work particularly well and smell great, especially iff you’re trying this out in the tub. Let the objects float and watch the design change and evolve as the water ripples.
vigorous – Mandalas are an ancient pastime that can get as intricate as you please. Open your mind and use unusual plant material, unique flowers, fruit and veg, seeds and pinecones will all add to the experience. Visualize the different shapes, forms and textures that each item, or part of the item can bring (stems, petals, whole inflorescence all add a different feel). Empty your mind, let go and create in a purely meditative state.
simple – Take some time outside with friends, each head in a different direction and see what you can collect. Look for unique leaf and flower shapes, insects, mushrooms and feathers. Then come back together and share what you saw. Magnifying glasses are a great tool to see smaller details. And don’t forget to look for unusual things too, prickly stems, slimy snail trails and spider webs are all import features too.
moderate – Sensory adventures make for the most inclusive nature experiences so try to engage as many of them as you can (Be careful with taste of course for obvious reasons). Try finding: 5 things that you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can smell, 2 you can hear and 1 to taste. And get creative, don’t stick to the obvious but really observe and take note of what’s around you.
vigorous – A nature and wildlife spotting list is a grand way to really put your sensory skills to the test. There’s lots to choose from on the internet or you can make your own. Really spend some time outside here and gather experiences as you check them off your list.
If you’re interested in a guided therapeutic experience and/or more information on Horticultural Therapy (HT) and Therapeutic Gardening (TH), there use as a part of clinical care, corporate or personal wellness programs or if you’re interested in becoming a qualified HT the CHTA has great resources and is well worth joining (we’re members).
And, if all you have are a few moments to appreciate nature-based art here are some insta accounts worth following
kathydanmala (Kathy Klein) – Creator of magical flower mandalas
thomasdambo (Thomas Dambo) – Maker of forest trolls
tokachi_millennium_forest – A naturalistic horticultural achievement in the woods of Hokkaido, Japan that features gardeners notes, seasonal moments and natural displays that celebrate this amazing public space.
-Sara-Jane & Alicia at Virens Studio
We are planting design specialists in the Vancouver, Canada area that love to build exceptional naturalistic garden spaces and chat all about it. And don’t forget to follow us @virensstudio on instagram.
© Virens Studio 2022 (all photos are used for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily belong to us.)
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