As early as 1798 the U.S. medical profession touted the healing quality of plants with accounts of patients who,working in the hospital food gardens, recovered more quickly than patients who simply convalesced in their rooms. Sanitariums and psychiatric hospitals began to adopt gardening as an in-house activity for their patients,not only to grow food for institutional consumption, but also to promote healing in the mind and body.Beyond the simple nourishment of fresh air and exercise, it is now understood that gardening and plant care offer a host of rewards in increasing one's self-esteem, developing job skills and creating avenues of nurturing andself-expression.The more intangible qualities are related to the very power and deep mystery of nature - a force that in manycircles is seen as a vehicle for individual growth and development . Psychiatrist Karl Menninger calls this pro-cess adjunctive therapy, whch has been seen to help patients with depression, anger and trauma disorders. Theserenity involved with designing and constructing a garden along with the work of maintaining it is instrumentalin channeling anger and aggression into productive skills and activities .Today, there is a nation-wide movementto incorporate horticultural therapy into various medical facilities with the goal to promote positive and substan-tive changes in human behavior.How does this play out in the prison setting? For prisoners, many of whom have suffered frequent failures in the job place, low literacy and the frustrations of being marginalized in society, horticulture is a process that allowsthem to control their environment through shared responsibilities – an unspoken contract between person and plant. Accomplishment is its own reward, generating new goals, skills and productive efforts in one's life. Asskills develop and projects increase, the individual achieves a greater sense of empowerment along with new-found pride in their role in the workplace.
To the garden, the world, anew ascending, Potent mates, daughters, sons, preluding,The love, the life of their bodies, meaning and being,Curious, here behold my resurrection, after slumber;The revolving cycles, in their wide sweep, have brought me again, Amorous, mature – all beautiful to me – all wondrous;
Walt Whitman. 1819-1892