New interactive garden promotes mindful engagement in daily living activities
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”
- John Burroughs
Any reason is a good reason to get outdoors during the
spring and summer months. The summer
picnic program and the
Sunshine Garden’s involvement with the community market are two great
examples of CAMH initiatives that encourage staff and clients to take a breath
of fresh air.
New to CAMH is the freshly sprung sensory garden. With the
goal of providing a calming sensory experience for those involved, this garden
is much more than a place of beauty. “I often refer to the sensory garden as the
healing garden,” said Phyllis Wong, an Occupational Therapist in CAMH’s Mood
and Anxiety Inpatient Unit. “I suppose that’s because of its therapeutic
Phyllis works away in CAMH’s
With funding and support from CAMH’s Gifts of Light Comfort
Fund, Phyllis took the initiative to bring the sensory garden to CAMH last
year. She did her research and learned of the benefits this type of space can
have on those struggling with mood and/or anxiety disorders. “As an
Occupational Therapist, I’m always looking for new ways to help clients find
success in developing skills for everyday life,” she explained.
The healing powers of
the sensory garden
The goal of a sensory garden, she told us, is to stimulate
one or more of the five human senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch, and smell),
and to offer clients an alternative healing environment away from the unit.
“It’s been proven that working with plants can evoke a sense of achievement,
and pre-vocational skills such as attention span and sense of responsibility
can be improved upon, too,” said Phyllis.
“The sensory stimulation helps those engaging with the
garden to pay attention to the task at hand. This is especially important for
clients I work with who are often overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety.”
Phyllis illustrated the healing power of the sensory garden
when discussing one client in particular. “She was very anxious and often
described being in constant physical pain,” she explained. “She agreed to help
with the garden by watering the plants and told me afterwards that she felt at
ease the entire time.” Paying attention to the task at hand and being mindful
of the present can be a very effective way to regulate mood and anxiety.
A garden designed to
engage your senses
The garden, rectangular in shape, is filled with a variety
of different plants that engage the human senses in different ways. A pathway
made from woodchips invites people to walk through the garden, experiencing the
plants and stimulating different senses in the process.
Dragon Wing Begonias are just
one of the visually appealing plants that engage human sight. Others include Supertunias,
Black-eyed Susans, Daylilies, Calendulas, and Butterfly Bushes.
The Chamomile plant is
typically used to make tea and is one of several plants in the sensory garden
that engage the human sense of taste. Basil, sage, chives, and oregano are
Not only is the Nasturtium
Dwarf Jewel easy on the eyes, but it’s edible, too!
Phyllis has researched creative
ways to engage hearing at the sensory garden. Feather Reed Grass, especially
when fully grown, makes a soothing noise as it sways with the breeze.
Lamb’s Ear is a unique plant that’s
unbelievably soft to the touch.
The smell of Lavender, basil,
sage, or even just the fresh woodchips on the ground, all make the sensory
garden a pleasant place to be.
Although Phyllis took the lead on creating CAMH’s sensory
garden, she would like to thank clients, colleagues, volunteers, and community
partners such as the Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprise,
FoodShare, Young Urban Farmers, and State Street Corporation for
all of their help. Phyllis asked us to give a special thanks to Andrea Stauber,
a horticultural therapist and former CAMH volunteer, for her assistance in
designing the garden.
Volunteers from the State
Street Corporation stand in the sensory garden during its early stages.