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October 2000

In our garden

By Alison Marshall, Senior Occupational Therapist & Shannon,
Department of Adolescent Medicine, The New Children's Hospital.

A horticultural therapy program for hospitalised adolescents

A potted garden is 'growing' in a courtyard that borders the adolescent ward and the Department of Adolescent Medicine at the The New Children's Hospital, Westmead. This is just the beginning of a larger scale Horticultural therapy program for hospitalised adolescents.

Rotary kindly donated a mobile shadehouse earlier in the year, and since then, adolescents in the hospital have been busy planting and caring for a range of plants, and painting pots to make the garden even more colourful. Our next project is to construct wooden planter boxes to house some permanent plants. Our goal in the near future is to develop a permanent sensory garden.

Adolescents from 12-16 years of age have been involved in developing the garden so far, and one adolescent has written about their gardening experience:

Adolescents over twelve years of age from Wade and Hall wards at The New Children's Hospital have developed the garden in the courtyard.

In our garden we have a variety of plants including- tomatoes, peas, strawberries, chives, parsley, basil, spinach, English daisies, lemon balm, paper daisies, blue bantam peas, pansies, petunias, alyssums, cinerarias, marigold and snapdragon.

With the warmer weather approaching we need to care for the garden more. Our jobs include, watering them everyday, fertilising every fortnight, dead heading the flowers that have wilted and transplanting seedlings into bigger pots; we also have to train the peas up wire supports that we have made for them.

I find gardening a relaxing pastime and it is a distraction from the awful hospital atmosphere. Other patients say that gardening is fun and is a good way to stay in touch with nature while they are in hospital.

In a few weeks we will be able to put our hard efforts to good use by using some of our plants for cooking and eating and our flowers will have started to bloom.

Without the garden the courtyard looked bare and lifeless. Now it is colourful and encouraging to spend time there - Shannon.

Editor's note: The above article was first published by the NSW Horticultural Therapy Association in their Spring 2000 Newsletter (Issue 51), and is reprinted with the author's permission.

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