Thursday, September 30, 2010

"The Earth Laughs In Flowers"

Emerson said "the earth laughs in flowers," and I found the image in that quote so fitting for an afternoon creating bouquets with women from the Bridging Employment Program at the Comox Valley Transition Society. 

The Bridging Employment Program offers assistance for women who have experienced abuse or violence.  This assistance is offered in the form of short term training, education, peer support, and employment skills.

 Thanks to the generous floral donations from Courtenay 5th Street Florist  and The Comox Valley Flower Pot, Gardens Without Borders was able to supplement what we had harvested from the farm with gorgeous lilies, plump rose blooms of red, ivory and pink, pale gerberas, eucalyptus greenery, and much, much more.

I gave a brief talk on floral design (not that I am an expert) and shared a way to arrange a bouquet without the use of florists' tape, Oasis foam or "frogs."  But the womens' design skills far exceeded anything I had to offer, and I was happy just to provide the flowers and vases for their fabulous creations.

It was a warm, sunny day at Innisfree, and over Chanchal's delicious tea blend (lemon balm, lemon verbena, fruit mint and stevia--all grown on the farm) our conversation and laughter was indeed reflected in the flowers we used in our bouquets!  It was truly a wonderful time, and I am always overwhelmed by the power and solidarity of women when we come together in such a postive way.

I learned a lot from this activity with the Bridging Employment team: how to manage the time better, what other materials to bring, but all in all it was a perfect way to spend a bright autumn afternoon.  Together we spent a lingering, summer-like day with laughter and flowers.

A big thanks to all who participated, and once again to the florists' who donated.

 Every single bouquet we made was exquisite; the following images are just the best shots I could take on my chintzy little camera!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebrating Summer's Bounty at the Fall Fair

It is always sad to think of summer's passing, but the feeling is bittersweet, combined with the excitement of the changing of the seasons and the anticipation of fall and winter festivities.  As the weather cools, we tend to nest, and our creative juices start flowing at the the thought of all of the more artistic and  homey pursuits we have put aside while living summer to the fullest, out of doors.

A good way to honour summer's bounty while celebrating the coming of fall is by attending your local fall fair.  In our neck of the woods, we are fortunate to have the Comox Valley Fall Fair Exhibition Association (CVEX) to organize a fun-filled family event, providing entertainment, midway rides, and good eats while displaying exhibits both vintage and modern, on an amateur and professional level.  In addition to featuring agricultural produce and animal husbandry, home arts and crafts are also entered into the competition, with cash and gift prizes awarded to the "best in show."  All of the exhibits are entered in good fun, but perhaps with a smidgen of healthy competition thrown in for good measure.

I respect the judges' dedication to the CVEX--there were certainly a lot of items entered, all of them fabulous, and the number of entries just exemplifies our community's spirit and commitment to supporting local horticulture and agriculture, be it from their own gardens or from one of the many great farms located in the valley.

Of course, Gardens Without Borders and Innisfree Farm entered some things into the Fall Fair!  Here is what they were:

Vinegar of the Four Thieves (recipe to be shared soon!)

(Our Teacup Garden)


(Our Flowering Wheelbarrow)

(Thierry's beautiful French heirloom "Cinderella Pumpkins," (Rouge vif D'Etampes) entered on behalf of Innisfree

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mother Nature Collage

This collage is a nature activity I found on the Sneaky Bugs blog.  I thought it was a fun and active HT project suitable, once again, for a variety of ages and abilities.

The purpose of this collage is not about permanence, but about process.

Using something as a frame (I had the one pictured here kicking about, slowly destined for the Sally Ann pile) with some mesh screen as "canvas," a GWB participant and her support worker collected a variety of natural objects, and the participant chose what she wanted to place on the collage and where.

We also placed some bird sunflower seeds to feed some wildlife.  The intent: to see how "Mother Nature's" hand influences the collage over a period of a week.

We had to place the collage under a tree because it was quite windy that day (we encouraged Mother Nature's input, but didn't want her to blow it away completely just quite yet).

The following week we looked at the collage only to find a some dried up flowers and empty sunflower seed shells re-arranged on the mesh canvas.

Garden In A Tea Cup: Bread And Water Can So Easily Be Toast And Tea

Tea cup gardens are a great activity many people of all ages and abilities can participate in and potentially enjoy.  What is more, depending on what plants you use, it is something that can be done year round.

It is important to choose small plants with shallow root systems that won't soon outgrow the cup.  However, if timed right, you can turn a window sill herb garden with lavender, rosemary, basil and chives in to an outdoor herb garden when the plants become to large for the cup.  You could also use a variety of succulents, like the adorable "hens and chicks" plant, and these can be used year round and kept indoors in the cooler seasons.  Or, you can use smaller spring and summer bedding plants, such as violas, pansies, and lobelia.  Fragrant plants in tea cups on a windowsill may lend a cheery disposition to room where people spend a lot of time, such as in a care home facility.  You can also use the tea cups to start the seeds for your garden.

You can source cups from your own cupboard--often pretty yet delicate china gets chipped or handles get broken over the years and yet we find ourselves unwilling to throw them out for sentimental reasons.  A tea cup garden provides new life for the handleless pieces of your grandmother's Royal Dalton collection.  Or, you can use mugs, teapots, or even bowls.  Second hand stores and garage sales, of course, usually have an excellent selection of potential small garden vessels.  Saucers can be matching or not, but they are important as a water reservoir when using such a shallow container.

When choosing cups and mugs for a Horticulture Therapy activity, consider your participant group.  A young man may not appreciate rosy-patterned fine china, or a tea cup might be too fine for some one with limited hand motor skills to manage.

Also, try to drill a hole in the bottom of the cup for water drainage.  If you don't have a ceramic drill bit, this may be difficult.  My husband and myself used a punch and a hammer, only to sacrifice a cup in our learning process, but we managed to get a decent hole in the bottom of most of them.  If you cannot make a hole, place small rocks in the bottom to provide some drainage so the roots don't rot.

Tea spoons make the perfect tea cup sized garden trowels. Starter mix or container potting soil also works well for this type of activity.

The benefit of this particular activity is that is a fun, whimsical, social experience.  Also, the maintenance required to take care of  your tea cup garden is minimal, but enough to encourage nurturing of another life form without it being too difficult or overwhelming.  The person with their tea cup garden may experience joy and wonder at the successful thriving of their little plant.

Also, planting in a tea cup can provide the opportunity for abstract thinking and imagination; for example,what else can we do with unconventional things intended for one particular use but used for another?  And a plant in a cup also makes a great gift, encouraging friendships, honouring relationships, and creating that "feel good feeling" of making something to selflessly give away in the end.

A Gardens Without Borders HT participant made this boot planter for a Father's Day gift-- a sort of variation of the tea pot garden.

What else can you plant in?  Old toilet bowls, children's shoes, are just a couple of the unconventional containers I have seen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Community Appreciation Dinner and Solstice Celebration

  Celebrate the Solstice 
 Drum Circle, Mandala Art, Hoop Dancing
Buffet dinner
Solstice ceremony
Candlelight labyrinth walk led by Mystic Voices Choir

Saturday June 19th, 6 – 10 pm
Innisfree Farm, 3636 Trent Road, Royston

 By Donation

this event is a fund raiser for Gardens without Borders
all funds raised will be used to build a wheel chair accessible toilet
for the horticulture therapy  program

RSVP by June 15
Thierry Vrain and Chanchal Cabrera
250 336 8768

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Horticulture Therapy Garden Club 2010
at Gardens Without Borders

What is the Garden Club? Horticulture Therapy strives to make gardening and experiences with the natural world accessible to everyone, whether you have physical, emotional, cognitive, or psychological challenges. The Garden Club will host activities that are fun, social and educational for people with a diverse range of abilities. The Garden Club is facilitated by a certified Horticulture Therapist.

Where is the Garden Club? Gardens Without Borders is based out of Innisfree Farm in Royston, BC. Innisfree is a beautiful farm and healing centre, offering organically grown produce, herbal medicine workshops, nutritional education and Horticulture Therapy programs.

When is the Garden Club? The Garden Club will be every Friday, starting June 11, and run until September. Attendance to all Garden Club meetings is not necessary—come only to the ones you like. The activities will start at 10am and are roughly an hour and a half long. Bring a bagged lunch to enjoy on the farm afterwards!

How much does it cost? Each activity is $10, but consideration can be made for those in financial need to help meet the cost. Participants will frequently have the opportunity to take home their garden project. Support workers are free, of course.

Garden Club Activities For June
June 11: Planting a Tea Cup Garden
June 18: Planting a Boot for Dad (Father's Day activity)
June 25: Nature Collage

Contact Lisa Hamilton to register or for more information: (250)871-4252

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Horticulture Therapy Programs at Innisfree Farm
Summer 2010

What is Horticulture Therapy (HT)?
HT is a client-centred practice designed to connect people with gardening, plants and the natural world in a way that meets their needs and interests. HT gardens, tools and activities are often physically accessible.

Why Horticulture Therapy?
HT goals support physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social,
and vocational well-being in a safe and healthy environment. HT facilitators are trained in working with individuals who face barriers in society, or who have special needs.

Who can benefit from Horticulture Therapy?
Anyone! Specifically, HT programs in Canada and worldwide include seniors, people with physical challenges, people living with mental health or addiction issues, at-risk youth, people with developmental disabilities, women in transition.

For more information contact Lisa: (250)872-4252

Gardens Without Borders is a registered not-for-profit

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What is Horticulture Therapy? Definitions


“The use of plants, gardens, and the natural landscape to improve cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.”

Canadian Horticulture Therapy Association, 2010

Horticultural Therapy is a process through which plants, gardening activities, and the innate closeness we all feel toward Nature are used as vehicles in professionally conducted programs of therapy, and rehabilitation.”

S. Davis 'Horticultural Therapy – Principles and Practice'

Horticulture Therapy is a professionally conducted client-centred treatment modality that utilizes horticulture activities to meet specific therapeutic or rehabilitative goals of its participants. The focus is to maximize social, cognitive, physical and/or psychological functioning and/or to enhance general health and wellness.”

R. Haller and C. Kramer 'Horticulture Therapy Methods'

Horticulture Therapy, to me, uses plants, the garden, and the natural world around us to develop programs that are accessible, client-centred and non-directive in their approach. The programs are client-centred in the way that the activities and goals of Horticulture Therapy reflect the needs and goals chosen by the individual. The programs are non-directive in the way that myself, as the facilitator, does not attempt to steer the clients to any sort of rehabilitative solution; the clients themselves hold the key to their own healing. The plants are the catalyst by which healing happens My role is to develop creative and engaging activities that reflect the needs expressed by the client, and to share my experience in horticulture and support work in a way that is meaningful to the client.”

Lisa Hamilton, Certified HorticultureTherapist

Of People and Plants by Chanchal Cabrera

Since time immemorial herbs and plants have been assigned magical and mystical properties and have offered balm to those who were suffering. Their chemical properties have been applied as medicines and still form the basis of modern pharmaceutical science. Their energetic properties are applied for psychic or soul healing.

There is an instinctive attraction of people to plants – whether a bouquet of flowers, a lovely park, a path through the woods or our own gardens – and this attraction is the basis for the practice of horticulture therapy. We are drawn to plants; we feel better when we have exposure to plants; we use plants to mark all the important occasions through our lives. Births and deaths, weddings and anniversaries have been marked with flowers for thousands of years, as witness the ancient Persian burial chambers with many seeds and plant remains. Kings and Queens since the ancient Egyptians have been anointed on ascending to the throne. Even Elizabeth II was ritualistically anointed with neroli, rose, cinnamon, jasmine, benzoin, musk, civet and ambergris in sesame oil on her coronation as have all English monarchs for hundreds of years. The Victorians created a whole language of flowers whereby the contents of a bouquet or corsage could display ones intent towards a sweetheart or a suitor. Today we give roses to our lovers, we put flowers on a grave and we take plants to people in hospital. Plants and people have evolved over the millennia, side by side, sharing air and water and even sharing DNA.

Medicine men, shamans and elders in (so-called) primitive cultures around world, when asked how the first people knew which plants to pick, consistently answer that the plants told them so. Their relationship to the plant world is so intimate that they can hear what the plants have to say about their uses and dangers. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their mummies in cloths soaked in oil of Myrrh and Frankincense. This would not only preserve their bodies very well, but it was believed to ease their ascent to the higher plains of existence. Ancient Celts named the letters of the alphabet after trees so that reciting the alphabet meant listing birch, rowan, alder and willow. Some Celtic tribes also gave tree names to the months or seasons, pointing to a deep symbiotic inter-relationship with Nature and their landscape.

For most of us today, surrounded by development and a man-made landscape, Nature is something we glimpse through the car windows as we crawl along in rush hour traffic, or maybe if we are lucky it is a park where we can spend our lunch hour in the summer. We may try to get to the beach on the weekend but for the most part we are cut off, alienated and isolated from Nature. Horticulture Therapy presents an opportunity for individuals and communities to overcome this tragic loss. Everyone can participate, regardless of mental or physical ability, anything from digging new vegetable beds to sitting in the sun enjoying the flowers.

Horticulture Therapy provides an opportunity to reconnect soul and soil.

Horticulture Therapy Programs on Vancouver Island

Broadmead Care Society: Lodge at Broadmead
Lodge at Broadmead has a Canadian Horticulture Therapy Association (CHTA) registered Horticulture Therapist working with Veterans and Seniors with dementia.
Woodwynn Farm
Woodywnn Farms is a therapeutic community in Saanich providing shelter, meals, counselling, peer support, and educational/vocational opportunities through organic farming for people wanting to get off the street.
Garry Oak Restoration Project at Government House
Facilitated by environmentalist, naturalist and support worker Joe Percival, individuals with mental health challenges are successfully restoring a Garry Oak ecosystem.

Cowichan Valley
Providence Farm
Providence Farm was gifted to the community by the Sisters of St. Ann's in 1979—celebrating over 30 years of community and Horticulture Therapy programs!
Glenora Farm
Based on the Camphill model, Glenora Farm operates as a therapeutic community where people with disabilities, their support workers and families live and farm together.
McSeeds on Cedar Wood Farm
McSeeds offers therapeutic gardening programs and vocational training to people with barriers, and is affiliated with the Vancouver Island University continuing education program.

Comox Valley
St. Joseph's General Hospital
The extended care unit at St. Joe's provides therapeutic gardening opportunities to its residents.
Anderton Therapeutic Garden
In addition to being a beautiful garden for all ages and abilities to enjoy, Anderton Garden is also wheelchair accessible and has enabling gardens for people with physical challenges.
Gardens Without Borders
Horticulture Therapy not-for-profit Gardens Without Borders is a part of the healing centre that is Innisfree Farm, with programs set to begin in the summer of 2010.

Gardens Without Borders Mission Statement

To support and facilitate the physical, social and spiritual rehabilitation of individuals and communities during or after destructive trauma.
To practice community gardening and horticulture therapy, both within our own community and in countries that have experienced destructive traumas.
To support, promote and facilitate the provision of nutritious foods, and traditional herbal medicines to individuals and communities.
To support and facilitate the recognition, practice and teaching of indigenous herbal medicines and folk healing practices.
To support, promote and facilitate the transmission of traditional knowledge of regional and sustainable horticultural and agricultural practices.

Vision statement
Establish a teaching, gardening and horticultural therapy centre in Courtenay, BC.
Establish therapeutic gardens in developing countries – may include refugee camps, war zones and post war countries or countries damaged by natural disaster.
These facilities will serve multiple purposes;
Growing food, medicines and flowers for the community and for possible trade or sale.
Physical rehabilitation of individuals who have been injured by war or others with disabilities from birth or accident.
Social rehabilitation of individuals emotionally damaged through war or other trauma.
Gathering knowledge and wisdom on regional horticultural practices from elders, farmers and gardeners.
Gathering and sharing knowledge and wisdom on regional healing practices from traditional healers.
Sharing of this knowledge and wisdom with young people, who can carry it forward.
Training or re-training of individuals in horticulture and in traditional healing as a viable vocation.