Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why and How to Create a Healing Garden

In the best of times flowers help us celebrate
the joyous occasions in our lives. In more
difficult times plants give us hope and
inspiration to meet life’s challenges.

The role of plants and gardens in healing is ancient. As early as 3000 B.C. the 
Chinese were using medicinal herbs. The Greeks built a temple for Aesclepius, 
their god of healing, set among mineral springs, bathing pools, and healing gardens. 

In colonial America, the Quakers felt a deep attachment to nature and believed 
gardens were a place of creativity. One of the first programs to use plants in a 
therapeutic setting was established in 1879 at Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital 
after a physician noticed that psychiatric patients working in the hospital’s fields 
and flower gardens were calmer and that the gardens had a “curative” effect on them.
Within the past few decades, the medical community is rediscovering the healing 
power of gardens. Many hospitals and health care facilities are incorporating green 
spaces and gardens into their surroundings; horticultural therapy programs are often 
an important part of a patient’s treatment.

Healing gardens can be found in a variety of institutions including substance abuse 
treatment centers, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices and retirement 
homes, as well as in botanic gardens and arboreta around the world. Positive results 
can be less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays.

For an individual recovering from a serious illness such as cancer or stroke, gardens 
can be an important part of healing by providing hope and inspiration. They can 
give patients a tranquil place to escape from the world of doctors, hospitals and 

The physical efforts of gardening—digging, planting, bending and walking—are 
great forms of exercise to keep the body healthy. Strenuous yard work such as 
digging or weeding not only burns calories, it is similar to weight training in 
building bones and preventing osteoporosis. Gardens and gardening activity 
can also improve mental outlook and our emotional mood by reducing stress, 
anxiety and depression. Studies have found that gardening can lower blood 
pressure and cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

A healing garden can take many forms but always provides interaction with 
nature. Visually plants provide inspirational colors or peaceful tones. We can 
hear the relaxing sound of water or the stimulating activity of visiting wildlife. 
The rich aroma of fresh earth and the delightful scent of perfumed herbs fill 
the air we breathe, while the fresh flavor of a crispy pea pod or sweet berry 
tempts our taste buds. We can touch the velvety smoothness of a flower petal 
or be touched by the movement of leaves in the wind.
Begin to create your own garden of healing today simply by planting a container 
filled with colorful flowers, a nutritious vegetable, or a herb such as lavender, 
sage, basil or thyme. In addition to being attractive and aromatic, these and 
many other herbs have been used medicinally for centuries.

Incorporating a few simple design elements turns
any garden into a place of healing and inspiration.

  • Grow plants that you find pleasing. Are you energized by bright colors? 
Then include annuals such as zinnias, petunias, sunflowers or cosmos. If 
you enjoy cooking, incorporate herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers into 
your garden. Plants such as sage or lavender can be harvested and used for

  • Include a place to sit and observe the beauty of nature or a path for walking
 through the garden. Enclose it with shrubs or fencing to create a secluded

  • Add a focal point for meditation and reflection such as a piece of sculpture,
a special plant, interesting rocks, wind chimes or a water fountain.

  • Encourage butterflies, birds, insects and other wildlife to the garden for
their healing energy. Birdfeeders and birdhouses quickly and easily begin
attracting garden visitors. Choose plants that supply nectar and food
 including coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), butterfly flower
(Aesclepias tuberosa) salvias (Salvia spp.), dill, parsley, and sunflowers.

The design and development of a healing garden, just like the process of healing
and recovery, takes place over time. It is that journey and the time spent with
nature that heals our body and soul.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Growing and Using Herbs, part 2: Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the carrot family, 
and is valued both for its flavorful foliage and for its 
pungent seeds. As annuals, dill plants die each year, 
but their seeds can winter over in the soil to pop up the 
following year. Dill grows well in gardens throughout 
zones 3-10.

When growing from seed, reduce crowding by pulling 
up weak, spindly sprouts to allow 2 to 6 inches of space 
between them. Dill prefers fairly moist soil throughout 
the growing season. Once plants have established good 
root systems, water only when rainfall is sparse if your 
soil is decent and mulched. In thin, poor and unmulched 
soil, dill needs watering a couple of times a week when 
it does not rain. If possible, avoid overhead watering in 
favor of a drip or porous hose system. Spread mulch on 
the soil around the plants when they are about 6 inches 
tall to discourage weeds.Dill is fast-growing enough that 
some of its foliage is mature enough to harvest in only 
eight weeks. Plan to sow crops in succession, three weeks 
apart, for a good supply over the entire growing season. 
Dill does best in full sun (with a bit of afternoon shade 
in the South). While fairly tolerant of poor soil conditions, 
it prefers a sandy or loamy soil that drains well. It is a 
light feeder, so extra fertilizer is not necessary in 
reasonably fertile soil. It’s easiest to sow seeds directly 
into the garden in rows, ¼ to ½ inch deep. Firm soil 
over the seeds and water gently. For a more naturalistic 
planting, scatter the seeds over a patch of ground; cover 
with 1/2 inch of soil, and water. Space plants 8 to 10 
inches apart if harvesting leaves, or 10 to 12 inches apart 
if harvesting seed. If transplanting starts, take great pains 
to avoid disturbing the taproot that has formed. Dill can 
also be grown in containers and the dwarf varieties are 
especially suited for this use.

Harvesting and Storing Dill

Dill leaves taste best picked just before flowers form. 
Start picking the leaves as soon as they are large 
enough to use. Pick early in the morning or in the late 
evening, clipping close to the stem. If you wish to 
harvest dill seed, allow flowers to form then go to seed. 
Cut the seedheads when the majority of seeds have 
formed–about 2 to 3 weeks after the blossoming starts. 
Hang the seed heads upside down in a paper bag. 
The seeds will fall into the bag when they mature and 
dry out. Freshly picked dill leaves will keep for 
several days in the refrigerator if placed in a jar of 
water and covered with plastic. They store for several 
months if layered with pickling salt in a covered jar 
in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the 
leaves, simply wash them and use them as fresh. 
For longer storage, dry by hanging bunches of stems 
upside down in a dark, dry, airy place until they are 
crumbly. Store them in a tightly sealed jar away from 
light and use within 4 to 6 months. Or use a food 
dehydrator according to instructions. Freeze dill by 
cutting the leaves–long stems and all–into sections 
short enough to fit into plastic bags. Do not chop the 
leaves. Keep in the freezer up to 6 months.

Growing and Using Herbs, part 1: Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae. It is
also called the “king of herbs” and the “royal herb” possibly because of the
name’s meaning in Greek. It is best known as a culinary herb prominently
featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian
cuisines. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste
somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.

How to Grow Basil

To grow this tender annual from seed,
sow in flats about 6 weeks before the
last frost. Sow seeds and cover with the
growing medium to about twice the
depth of the seed. Keep soil at 70-72
degrees F, and keep moist. Basil
seedlings are very sensitive and most
losses occur due to low moisture and
low temperatures. If not crowded in
the seed flat, do not thin, but let them
grow to 3 to 4 inches before trans-
planting. Basil likes the warmth of the
full sun to grow best. Lift transplants
carefully by the leaves instead of the
stem. Set outdoors only after soil and
air temperatures are warm. One chilly night can set plants back.
Basil can be directly sown in the garden after the soil has warmed up and
nights are not too cool. Be sure to sow to a depth of twice the size of the
seed or heavy rains may wash the seeds away. Purple basil, lacking
chlorophyll, is more susceptible to shock in the early stages.

Harvesting and Storing Basil

Sweet green basil can be dried, frozen in ice cubes, frozen as prepared
pesto or used fresh. Blend fresh basil leaves with pine nuts, oil, garlic
and cheese for a bright green, fresh-tasting pesto; perfect for pesto or
grilled meats. It is also good for making flavored vinegar for salad
dressing or suffused in oil for flavored oil. Purple basil is best used
fresh in salads, and for making flavored vinegar. In the garden, purple
basil is a colorful contrast to annual flowers, and its color and
blooms are useful in cut arrangements.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 is the Year of the Pansy!
Year of the Begonia

Pansies are such a friendly-faced flower! But until the 19th century most people considered them a weed. Today, pansies are a hybrid plant cultivated from those wildflowers in Europe and western Asia. Much of the collection and cultivation of pansies can be attributed to plantsmen and women in the UK and Europe more than 200 years ago. For example, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet, daughter of the Earl of Tankerville, and her gardener cross-bred a wide variety of Viola tricolor (common name “Heartsease”) and showcased their pansies to the horticultural world in 1813. Further experiments around the same time eventually grew the class to over 400 garden pansy varieties.

Garden pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a mixture of several species, including Viola tricolor. Oftentimes the names “pansy”, “viola”, and “violet” are interchangeable. However modern pansies are classified by the American Violet Society as having large-flowered blooms with two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal, with a slight beard in its center. They’re considered annual bedding plants, used for garden decoration during cooler planting seasons. Pansies come in a rainbow of colors: from crisp white to almost black, and most all colors in between. They are also a great addition to your spring or fall vegetable garden as they are edible and pair well with lettuces. They can also be candied and used to decorate sweets or other dishes.

Read more about the history of pansies here.

Most pansies fall into a few categories: Large (3 to 4 in.), Medium (2 to 3 in.) Multiflora (1 to 2 in.) and a new category of Trailing pansy. Some modern large-flowered pansy series are Majestic Giant Mix, bred by Sakata (a 1966 All-America Selections Winner); Delta, bred by Goldsmith Seeds; and Matrix, bred by PanAmerican Seed. Medium-sized pansy series include Crown and Imperial by Sakata (Imperial Blue won an All-America Selections in 1975). Multiflora pansy series like Maxim and Padparadja won AAS awards in the early 1990s. New on the scene for hanging baskets and ground cover are WonderFall from Syngenta, and Cool Wave® pansies, from PanAmerican Seed – the makers of Wave® petunias. These Trailing pansies spread over 2 ft. wide and overwinter in fall gardens. Today’s garden pansy varieties can fill any sunny space – large or small, hanging overhead or growing underfoot – with soft fragrance and happy blooms.

Starting Your Pansies From Seed:
To germinate, start your pansy seeds indoors with a soilless mixture (this helps prevent disease on the seedlings). Plant seed 1/8-in. deep with a light cover and a gentle watering. Pansies prefer darkness for germination. The media temperature should be 60-65°F and keep air temperature at 70-75°F. The media should stay damp (covering with a plastic wrap or damp newspaper will help retain humidity. A fine spray or mister can be added if the media dries. Germination occurs in 10-20 days. When shoots appear, remove covering and move the flat to a brightly lit but cool room to continue to grow. Continue to grow cool. Separate seedlings into larger containers after two sets of leaves appear. Begin to feed with diluted plant food.

For Transplants or Purchased Finished Plants:
space your pansies 6 to 10 in. apart in a well-drained and fertile soil location. The best location is an area that receives morning sun. Adding granular or time-release nutrition to the soil is encouraged, especially for trailing pansies as this increases their vigor and number of blooms. Offer plenty of water at planting and during their adjustment period to help establish roots and minimize stress. Mulching can help retain moisture and reduce any weeds that may compete with your plants. Pansies planted in the spring will enjoy the warm days and cool nights of the season. Most V. wittrockiana will begin to diminish or go out of flower as nighttime temperatures begin to rise in the summer. When planted in the north for fall outdoor decorating, pansies will enjoy a shorter but colorful season of blooms and in many cases will overwinter to pop up again the following spring. Southern gardeners often use pansies as their winter color and enjoy them all season long.

For more information on Pansies, please see our NGB website Year of the Pansy page!
The National Garden Bureau recognizes and thanks, PanAm Seed as the author of this fact sheet. This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau. There are no limitations on the use. Please credit the National Garden Bureau. Photos can be obtained from the NGB website in the area labeled “Image Downloads.” National Garden Bureau would like to thank our members for providing the photos for this feature. Please credit the National Garden Bureau anytime one of these images is used.
Pansy Inspire Plus Beaconsfield
Pansy Inspire Plus Beaconsfield
Pansy Colossus Tricolor Imperial
Pansy ColossusTricolor Imperial
Pansy Nature Mulberry Shades
Pansy Nature Mulberry Shades
Pansy King Henry Viola
Pansy King Henry 
Pansy Majestic Giants II Blue Jean
Pansy Majestic Giants II Blue Jeans
Pansy Majestic Giants II Mix
Pansy Majestic Giants II Mix
Pansy Matrix Solar Flare
Pansy Matrix Solar Flare
Pansy Panola Primrose
Pansy Panola Primrose
Pansy Cool Wave Morpho