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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH garden program gets creative with fall harvest

Earlier this year, some clients of the CAMH Partial Hospital Program (PHP) were hustling to plant their garden. With the advent of fall, it’s all about the harvest – and how to use it in creative and comforting ways.

“I like the garden program – I find it calming,” says Spencer, a young client at PHP. The previous week, he was making tea from herbs harvested from the PHP garden, located on the CAMH Queen Street Site.

Today, he’s adorning a decorative tray with dried Passion flowers grown in a window right next to the activity room. He also wants to gab about the Toronto Blue Jays -- he knows Recreationist  Melissa Pearce is going to the game tonight.

“[Pitcher] David Price is one of my favourites,” Spencer says, mimicking Price’s smile, head nod, and self-chest-thump after he wins an inning. Spencer says he remembers watching Price pitch seven scoreless innings to win a critical game against the Yankees in the lead up to the playoffs.

Melissa watches Spencer
“Sharing when you can:” Melissa watches Spencer place a dried Passion flower on the reverse side of a decorative plate project 
Passion flower
Finding your passion: A Passion flower blooms in the hallway next to a sunny window at the PHP program on Unit 6-2.

Recreational Therapist Craig Currah and Melissa focus on nutrition, art, fitness and more at PHP, which has at least 20 clients. The program specializes in care for clients who have experienced psychosis but do not currently require inpatient care, or who have transitioned from inpatient programs.

“For our garden programs, our clients get creative,” says Craig. This fall, clients have been making:

•    comfort sachets, made from a variety of herbs and essential oils; these can be used as a hot or cold pack, placed under your pillow for sweet dreams, or to freshen a clothes drawer
•    decorative plates made with pressed flowers such as Geranium, Queen Anne’s Lace and Passion Flower
•    teas made from Lemon balm, Mint, Fennel, Cinnamon, Coconut, Fruit Sage and Thyme
•    healthy snacks from fresh Ground Cherries (like a Tiny Tim tomato but in a husk)
•    seed packs to store seeds, such as Fennel, for next year.

Melissa and Craig prepare ingredients
Preparing to get creative: Melissa and Craig prepare ingredients for garden crafts.

Ground cherries and fennel
Harvest still-life: The pale green husks of Ground Cherries mingle with dried seeds of Fennel – these are used in teas and comfort sachets made by clients of CAMH’s PHP program.

Chia-pet-like creatures created by clients
 Edible hair-do: Two Sprout Heads -- Chia-pet-like creatures created by clients, next to a comfort sachet made of herbs, intended to be placed under the pillow for sweet dreams.

Full circle

The harvest focus today is based on some serious gardening sweat equity earlier this year. New topsoil was added to enrich the garden in spring 2015.

“It’s nice to be able to get outside and to work with our hands,” said one young client who was busy raking new topsoil into the garden bed this past spring.  “I learned gardening from A to Z at home when I was growing up, so I can bring that experience to our garden here.”

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