The sudden burst of happiness is one of the benefits of horticultural, or garden therapy, as it is better known. It is reported that some female patients at this state-run, mental health care home in the village of Ruskie Piaski are undergoing the springtime treatment.
“Gardens provide an environment that stimulates many senses; the patient can smell the scents of flowers and plants, touch them, and even get pricked by thorns,” says biological scientist Bozena Szewczyk-Taranek, who has created a horticultural therapy training course at the Agricultural University of Krakow, due to start in September.
“It also facilitates physical exercise, for example for patients who have problems with balance, they can hop from one stone to another. “But when we have intellectually-impaired patients, we must make sure there are no toxic plants in the gardens like yews, hydrangeas or lily of the valley,” she told in an interview.
The positive influence of a garden on the ill is thought to have already been known in Ancient Egypt, but modern therapy dates back to the 19th century and was used to help soldiers wounded in World War I.
While horticultural therapy does not cure mental illness, it can stimulate patients both intellectually and socially, boosting their self-confidence and sense of well-being, experts say.
Even just getting them out of their rooms into the fresh air can help by improving their physical condition. Alina Anasiewicz, the director of the Ruskie Piaski care home which is one of the leading centres in Poland for garden therapy, says she came across it on a 2013 study trip to Switzerland.
“We brought home quite a few of the methods we learnt from the Swiss,” she told media. She points proudly to a fountain, where, on hot days, patients can touch the flowing water and wade into a small pool with pebbles lining the bottom that tickle their feet.