March 14 to 21 is Canadian Horticultural Therapy Week. Did you know that Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) has two thriving horticultural therapy programs at Banfield Pavilion and the Joe and Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre?
Horticultural therapists use nature-based activities and garden landscapes to promote well-being for their clients and residents. Horticultural therapists Lindsay VanHuizen and Moira Solange apply current research and an evidence-based approach to connect people and plants in an uplifting way.
“I’m just in awe of plants,” says a long-term care resident at Banfield Pavilion. “They lift your heart out of the deepest hole and they make you feel like you have a purpose.”
Horticultural therapy sessions provide clients and residents opportunities to learn new skills while improving their physical, social and emotional well-being. During the sessions, clients and residents engage in purposeful work, often getting their hands in the soil for the very first time.
The horticultural therapy program at Banfield Pavilion enhances the quality of life for 156 long-term care residents. In 2017 a generous donation from the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation transformed the 3,000-square-foot patio into a beautiful garden oasis for the residents.
Banfield Pavilion's garden entrance with herbs and edibles to the left, and the resident's “flower wall" to the right.
Residents sow seeds, feed hungry birds and search for newly emergent plant buds in the spring. Summer in the garden is flush with growth, and residents keep busy with planting and watering flowers, herbs and edibles. Among fall’s rich colours, residents prune, sweep and care for Mason bees. In the winter, aromatic evergreens form seasonal displays and the garden is lit up with festive lights. Year-round programs include indoor plant care, flower arranging, crafts and birdwatching.
Lindsay VanHuizen, horticultural therapist at Banfield Pavilion, develops and maintains the garden for safety, accessibility and sensory stimulation. Residents are invited to participate and each program is tailored to the individual’s goals, abilities and interests.
The birdwatching hub at Banfield Pavilion's garden.
Residents at Banfield Pavilion wash Mason bee cocoons.
The Segal and Family Health Centre’s Intensive Tertiary Rehab (ITR) unit serves clients who have complex mental health conditions and is home to the second horticultural therapy program at VGH.
Horticultural therapy is an active part of the psychosocial rehab in the unit, where Moira encourages clients to participate in a variety of activities.
Flower arranging allows clients to express their creativity and brings joy and beauty to the facility. Clients also learn to grow edible sprouts that can be shared and enjoyed with others, while encouraging healthy eating. Tropical plants are also available for clients to propagate and enjoy.
A client with their fresh, healthy sprouts!
One client at the centre has a beautiful collection of plants and now propagates plants on his own. He will be able to take his new skills wherever he goes and his love of gardening will help him to make community connections when he moves on to stable housing.
The gardens are a place to relax, exercise the mind and body, find meaning and purpose, make friends, learn something new, practise a familiar hobby and find comfort in the midst of difficult situations. Now that’s something to celebrate.
If you would like more information about VGH’s horticultural therapy programs, please contact Lindsay VanHuizen at email@example.com or Moira Solange at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A centrepiece created by a client at the Joe and Rosalie and Segal Family Health Centre's Intensive Tertiary Rehab unit.
The main activity area at Banfield Pavilion garden.
Banfield Pavilion residents' flower wall and home to their Mason bees.
Water features at Banfield Pavilion garden stimulate the senses and attract friendly wildlife.