Healing Garden: Writing and Designing

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I want to apologize for not having written much recently, I have putting all my words towards a project at work and have been left with nothing else to give by the end of the day. However, though my blog has been neglected, the project that has replaced it is so great and I cannot wait to share it with you all. Some of you may know that I worked at GreenHouse17, a domestic violence shelter in Lexington, during graduate school and I became very interested in horticultural and nature therapy, which they utilize as part of their program. I have questioned many times whether I want to pursue this field as a career because I love it so much, and crazy enough I actually have the opportunity to try it out at My Refuge House.

Apparently, back in 2010, MRH created a five year plan which included a Garden of Healing to be created at the end of their timeline once all other construction was finally done. Fast forward four years and I enter the picture as a new volunteer in 2014 and they discover my experience with horticulture therapy and healing gardens. Aside: healing gardens are an attribute of horticultural or nature therapy and they provide a therapeutic and natural environment for mental health counselling, personal meditation, skills building, and healthy coping behaviors. Nature therapy focuses on individuals and groups interacting with nature in an intentional and practical way and group activities include designing, planting, and harvesting a garden – along with using the harvest to cook healthy meals, create art projects, and make herbal remedies and other natural body products. Healing gardens are incredible, basically.

Site for Healing Garden

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Over the past year we have talked about the garden several times and then a couple of weeks ago we finally began the planning stage when a grant to fund the garden started taking applications. I am ridiculously excited about this project (SO EXCITED) and have begun writing the two applications for some funding. It has been a great way to start talking seriously about the garden and we have been able to come up with some awesome ideas that everyone at the shelter is interested and pumped about for the space.

We started the process by having the girls at the shelter draw out their own ideas for a healing garden and then compiled the different ideas to establish a fantastic design. The final design and layout will blow your mind (or at least make you want to experience its peacefulness once finished). It includes a large group table with a native thatched roof, a wooden platform for yoga and other activities, a hammock area, two benches with a small fish pond, and a two-person swing with small trellis. There will a multitude of healing and sensory plants (plants that have healing properties and appeal to all the senses, such as sight, smell, sound, taste and touch), a stone walking path, bird feeders, and wind chimes; and it is all surrounded by a natural wall of vines, bamboo, palm trees, and tall native plants. For the finishing touch it will have a garden floor of sand and small stones to be soothing when barefoot.

Drawing own ideas & developing final design

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It has been great fun coming up with all the possibilities for a healing garden, sharing it with the girls, and working with the staff to develop ideas and solutions. (I may want to do it for the rest of my life). It has been a wonderful learning experience, but thankfully I am finally approaching the end of this grant writing process after creating a proposal, writing two applications, and working with our staff to establish a budget. I hope to write more soon once I am out of the frenzy, but no worries, I will keep you updated with the progress of the garden because it is going to be MAGICAL! If you have any desire to help contribute to this project please just send me a note.

Much love!

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