The Enabling Garden at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

A lily pond and lush plantings make this garden an excellent place for rehab work.

Horticultural Therapy is, in a nutshell, the use of plants, gardens, and other aspects of nature to improve people’s social, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. Check out the HT page on the TLN website, and the organizations American Horticultural Therapy Association and the Horticultural Therapy Institute for more information. The new book, Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces also has a great chapter on HT, written by the inimitable Teresia Hazen at Legacy Health in Portland, OR.

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

A horticultural therapist works with a client

The HT program at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital is well-established and respected in the field. Thanks to Pam Young, the Horticultural Therapist there, for this description of their program, and for the accompanying photos.

“The Enabling Garden was created as a therapeutic outdoor environment to enhance the horticultural therapy program at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.  Bryn Mawr Rehab serves patients from a wide range of illnesses and injuries including those recovering from brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury and other orthopedic and neurological conditions.

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

With this beautiful greenhouse, clients can garden all year long.

Horticultural therapy is provided as a medium to achieve improvement in skills needed for maximum function, as well as to return to leisure and recreational interests and hobbies. The Enabling Garden is fully wheelchair accessible and features raised beds at varied heights to accommodate patients.  Pavement surfaces are also varied to provide patients the opportunity to practice negotiating different surfaces.  During the growing season, patients are actively engaged in the designing, planting, and maintenance of the beds and containers throughout the garden while addressing their therapy goals. The garden is open to the public and also enjoyed by family members, visitors and hospital staff.”

Here’s some more great information about HT and the HT program at Bryn Mawr Rehab from their website:

Horticultural Therapy is an innovative treatment modality that uses plants and plant-related activities to assist in the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. The Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital Sydney Thayer III Horticultural Center is a state-of-the-art facility with cathedral ceilings, skylights and a greenhouse that creates a calm and therapeutic setting.

Horticultural Therapy is a change of pace from traditional therapies. Patients work on individual rehabilitation goals, while enjoying plant-related activities. As patient work with plants, they can improve mobility, balance, endurance, memory and socialization skills. Muscles can be strengthened and coordination can be improved. Horticultural therapy enables patients to nurture and care for plants while meeting clinical goals.

Horticultural Therapy can be done as a group or individual activity. Occupational, recreational, physical and speech/language therapists work together with registered horticultural therapists to coordinate activities that meet individual patient goals.

Activities in the greenhouse include starting seeds, watering or repotting plantings, working with fresh flowers, arranging, drying and pressing flowers and, when the weather permits, activities may move outdoors for garden work. The specially-designed greenhouse includes six-foot wide aisles and non-skid floors to accommodate wheelchairs.


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4 Responses to “The Enabling Garden at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital”

  1. Janice says:

    I’m so impressed with the innovative committed work done in the US with restorative gardening. Do you know of any similar projects in South Africa – Being an industrial psychologist I’m specifically interested in restorative gardening, transformational spaces for people who may be on temporary disability for a form of mental health disorder from depression to bipolar – any direction would be most appreciated.

    • Naomi Sachs says:

      Janice, Greetings from the U.S.! I don’t know of any such programs in South Africa, though there is some work going on in Ghana, and I can try to put you in touch with those folks. Please email me through the TLN contact page, I would also highly recommend posting your query as a discussion question on the TLN group on Linked In (and/or Facebook). Linked In: Facebook: Finally, there is a chapter on gardens for mental and behavioral health facilities in Clare Cooper Marcus’ and my new book, ‘Therapeutic Gardens: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces.’ The chapter, and the references, may be very useful.

  2. Jack Carman says:

    The HT Program at Bryn Mawr is exemplary! And Pam Young has helped the program at the hospital to grow in wonderful ways. Pam is a dedicated professional who graciously offers her time to help others. The students attending my Intro. to HT class have participated in class at the HT Center at Bryn Mawr. They have learned a lot from Pam’s instruction and experience.