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NC State Extension

Healing/Therapy/Ability Gardens

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Young woman with flowers

Image by John Murphy

Types of Gardens*

Healing Gardens

Healing gardens include green plants, flowers, water, and other aspects of nature. They are often associated with hospitals and other healthcare settings, are accessible to all, and designed to have beneficial effects on most users. A healing garden is designed as a retreat and a place of respite for clients, visitors, and staff and to be used at their desire. An individual healing garden may include therapeutic gardens, horticultural therapy gardens, and/or restorative gardens.

Therapeutic Gardens

A therapeutic garden is designed for use as a component of a treatment program such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or horticultural therapy programs and can be considered as a subcategory of a healing garden. Therapeutic gardens are designed as part of a multi-disciplinary collaborative process by a team of professionals to meet the treatment goals of a specific user or population. It may provide for both horticultural and non-horticultural activities. It should be designed. A therapeutic garden may exist on its own as an extension of an indoor therapeutic program area or it may be part of a larger healing garden.

Horticultural Therapy Gardens

A horticultural therapy garden is a type of therapeutic garden; it is designed to accommodate client treatment goals, but it is designed to support primarily horticultural activities. A horticultural therapy garden is also designed in such a manner that the clients themselves are able to take care of plant material in the garden.

Restorative Gardens

A restoration or meditation garden may be a public or private garden that is not necessarily associated with a healthcare setting. This type of garden employs the restorative value of nature to provide an environment conducive to mental repose, stress-reduction, emotional recovery, and the enhancement of mental and physical energy. The design of a restorative garden focuses on the psychological, physical, and social needs of the users.

* This information provided by the American Horticultural Therapy Association

Therapeutic Gardens in NC

Durham County

  • NC Botanical Gardens Horticultural Therapy Demonstration Gardens – Five 4-foot by 4-foot, 24-inch-high raised beds of heirloom vegetables and flowers designed for persons with limited mobility and reach. Herb garden provides sensory stimulation and seasonal interest, outdoor rooms and spaces for privacy and social interaction, safe and stable surfaces, raised beds, shade and seating, playful areas and natural distractions that elicit emotional responses, including, moving water, art, and animals. The Herb House and the  Growing Classroom provide space for indoor activity and the Piedmont Nature Trails and Habitat Display Gardens offer beautiful woodlands and and additional plant collections for use by the horticultural therapy program.

Henderson County

  • Bullington Gardens , Hendersonville, NC –  12 acres of rolling land.including a therapy garden with raised, accessible beds, an accessible greenhouse, pavilion, water feature, shade garden, perennial borders, native woodland garden, pumpkin patch and herb garden. There is a half-mile nature tail through the wooded area of the grounds. Plants for fragrance and touch are included through out the property. The facilities at the Gardens include a multipurpose room, a greenhouse and headhouse (used for hands-on workshops) and an amphitheater.

 New Hanover County

  • The Ability Garden, Wilmington, NC – Offers free acces to raised beds, adaptive equipment, a wide variety of garden containers including “vertical garden boxes”, barrier-free space and an outdoor classroom.