Friday, October 2, 2009

Gardening Saves Sanity!

You are a gardener, so you likely have experienced the connection between your emotional and physical well-being and your garden. I call it Plant Thrall and it happens regularly when I visit nurseries and garden centers or I’m in a garden. (Webster’s defines “thrall” as a state of complete absorption, which is exactly correct in my case.) As a creative person, I love the textures, colors and variety of plants but there’s a lot more to it than that: I have a need to touch, smell and be entranced. Gardens and plants change my emotional state, either revving it up (when I’m at a nursery looking at plants) or calming it down (when I’m in a garden).

Several women have told me that gardening saved their lives when they were going through particularly challenging times. About this time last year, I am quite certain getting my hands in the soil and becoming immersed in my garden—in addition to talking to myself a lot—helped maintain my sanity during a particularly stressful few months. What’s the most important aspect of gardening to you?

I just ordered a book by Charles A. Lewis titled “Green Nature/Human Nature: THE MEANING OF PLANTS IN OUR LIVES” to learn more about this strong urge I have to plant myself in my garden. It’s what some academics refer to as socio-horticulture (there’s scientific term for it, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it is).
On a lighter note, I heard an Ohio extension agent refer to this affliction as CHAD: Compulsive Horticultural Acquisition Disorder. Good for my soul. Good for the environment. Bad for the budget!

We still have a few more weeks of great gardening weather so Happy Gardening!


  1. How very true. Last autumn, following the unexpected death of my best friend, moving my Alzheimer's afflicted parents in with me, and the usual stress of my work in animal sheltering, I spent my lunch breaks acquiring plants and my weekends planting them. It was expensive, but unlike seeing a therapist (also expensive)I am deeply enjoying the results of my therapy as my garden grows and develops, and I have a place of beauty to retreat or to share with friends. It is probably the third time in my life I have created a garden in response to stress and deep depression. I think the garden pulls me through the dark because it is intrinsically related to the future in a hopeful manner, providing a sense of continuity and reflecting my relationship to the greater world. The act of planting a bulb is having faith in the future, and a sense of interested attention in how it will unfold.

  2. Thank you for touching on this topic on your website. I am the Executive Director for the nonprofit: Garden Partners in Portland, Oregon. Our mission is to enhance the health and well-being of individuals through participation in community-based therapeutic gardening programs. We currently have garden programs in 5 elder facilities, and 1 child and family service center. We are working on increasing our programs to serve a variety of populations in our community with therapeutic horticulture. Please see our website: There are many ways to be involved!

  3. My garden has absorbed many tears and much furious energy over the years, taking my sorrow and anger and turning them into life and growth and beauty. Precious friendships are evident too, in the crazy-quilt collection of plants donated from other people's gardens. My garden gives me hope and solace.

    Nice job on the blog, Ann!