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Texas Agricultural Extension - Garden Volunteers and Health

  • Subject: [cg] Texas Agricultural Extension - Garden Volunteers and Health
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 07:15:40 EST

March 16, 2005
Volunteers Use Plants and Flowers That Are Just What the Doctor Ordered
Writer: Lorri Jones, (281) 855-5620,lv-jones@tamu.edu
Photos and Graphics

Video Script 

HOUSTON - "Pick two daisies and call me in the morning!" 

From early recordings of civilization, man has pulled roots and leaves from 
the earth to help him feel better. However, it is not simply what is ingested 
that brings healing. Working in dirt or even viewing a landscape has proven to 
assist healing. 

Dr. Roger Ulrich, Texas A&M University professor of architectural landscape 
and urban development, studied patients recovering from gall bladder surgery. 
He reported shorter recovery periods, the need for fewer potent pain drugs and 
fewer negative staff evaluations for patients whose rooms had a view of trees 
instead of walls. 

Three gardening programs conducted in the Greater Houston area by Texas 
Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers help patients feel better. The 
Master Gardener program offers advanced education and training in horticulture. 
After classroom training, participants contribute 60 hours of community service 
to receive the Master Gardener designation. For more information, visit 

The Flower Lady 

For more than 30 years, Audrey Chadwick, a registered nurse and horticulture 
therapist, has studied and practiced the therapeutic benefits of horticulture 
and floriculture. For the past 10 years, her gentle and consistent work with 
stroke patients at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital has earned her the 
nickname, "The Flower Lady." 

Once a week, Chadwick, a Master Gardener since 1981, is joined by other 
volunteers who help patients recovering from strokes select flowers and cut stems 
to make floral arrangements or do other gardening crafts. 

"I particularly like to work with herbs, because it stimulates memory," 
Chadwick said. "For example, we made paper; we made crowns out of rosemary; we dyed 
eggs for Easter with natural dyes." 

The creativity that patients use in designing stimulates their brains. The 
use of fine motor skills in cutting stems and arranging flowers is an exercise 
in coordination that can reinforce other types of therapy. In addition, plants 
and flowers have a calming effect that improves the patient's overall sense of 

Chadwick told the story of one of her favorite patients, a 41-year-old stroke 
victim and NASA engineer whom the nurses had asked her to work with 
one-on-one. She said when he first came in, he was angry from his debilitating 
condition and told her that he wasn't going to do anything. Chadwick went to work 
breaking off pieces of eucalyptus for potpourri, and before long the patient 
joined in. 

"When he got ready to leave (that day), he turned to me and said, 'I feel 
like I've had a walk in the forest. Thank you,'" Chadwick said. "I didn't cure 
him. I didn't cure him at all, but I certainly made his moments better." 

Chadwick was honored with the Special Award of Merit in 2002 by the Texas 
Master Gardener Association for the Galveston County Horticulture Therapy 

On the Wings of Butterflies 

In 1994, Chris LaChance, Extension program coordinator for the WaterSmart 
Landscaping Program in Houston, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Following two 
surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy, this cancer survivor said she wanted 
to share with staff and future M.D. Anderson Cancer Center patients her 
gardening experience and how her relationship with nature helped her during 

"My own healing began when my spirit was renewed as well as my body," she 
said. "It was nature, through its life-affirming promise, that gave me this 

LaChance, who is also a volunteer Master Gardener, asked for help from her 
daughter and fellow Master Gardeners in Galveston. M.D. Anderson designated 
several existing plant beds in front of the R. Lee Clark Clinic, 1515 Holcombe in 
Houston, to convert into nurturing habitats for butterflies. 

"So many of our patients, like Chris, find comfort with the outdoors, and 
this garden provides a way to be surrounded by nature for a while instead of 
being confined to the clinic," said Stephanie Young, associate director for 
development at M.D. Anderson. "Places like this garden are so important to the 
overall well-being of the patient." 

Because of her work with the WaterSmart Landscaping Program, LaChance said 
she chose native and non-invasive adapted plants that would attract butterflies, 
yet require less water and not need fertilizer or other chemicals to thrive. 
This gardening method reduces run-off pollution, which is WaterSmart 
Landscaping's goal. 

"Volunteers named the garden the Chrysalis Project as a play on words, 
referring to the emerging butterfly - whole and healed - and my first name," 
LaChance said. 

She added that the garden is thriving, despite the ongoing construction 
surrounding the clinic. 

"Caring for and connecting with nature are ways to heal the spirit," LaChance 
said. " And, I firmly believe the mind, spirit and body are connected." 

A Place of Solace 

Bering Omega Community Service's Omega House, 602 Branard, is a hospice 
facility that allows individuals with HIV/AIDS to live out their final days with 
dignity. There is no physical healing in this home, but Master Gardeners have 
provided a quiet place of reflection for residents, according to Patty Adamik, 
Master Gardener coordinator of the Omega House garden. 

For more than a year now, Adamik and about eight other volunteers work at 
Omega House twice a month maintaining the gardens and changing the beds to 
reflect the seasons. 

"The garden has been a welcoming place for the residents, family members and 
caretakers that come and go here," she said. "It brings a lot of color and 
connection to the seasons." 

She said that residents and their families as well as the volunteers and 
caretakers who work at the home have expressed appreciation for the beauty the 
gardens bring. 

"I don't think there has ever been a time that I was working in the garden 
when someone hasn't commented on the gardens," she said. "Someone always says 
thank you, either because of a bouquet that was brought into the house, or 
because they've noticed apples on our apple tree or how many butterflies are flying 
through the garden." 

Sandy Stacy, director of the Omega House program, said residents often go to 
the garden for quiet time or use its lush surroundings as a meeting place for 

"It is a sense of diversion for the families. When things get very, very 
intense with the terminal process, it's nice to walk out and see something pretty 
and natural and real," she said. "But also, I think for the patients, it's to 
be able to see the renewal of life and the plants change and that life goes on 
with the change in our gardens." 

While you may not find a medical degree among the volunteers involved, for 
the patients influenced by the beauty of these programs, their work is just what 
the doctor ordered

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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