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Craig garden provides unique therapy, respite space

November 05, 2013

On any given day, Craig Hospital patients, their families, and staff members can be found enjoying the garden, a peaceful space located outside of Craig’s East Building.

“People feel better connected to nature here,” says Susie Hall, HTR CTRS, Craig’s registered horticultural therapist. “It’s an escape; it’s a place of sanctuary.”

But the restful nature of the Gardens belies its therapeutic purpose. The garden, which is partially donor-funded and is managed by the Therapeutic Recreation department, plays an important role in the recovery of Craig patients.

“The field of Therapeutic Horticulture has been recognized for a long time,” says Hall, “It’s practiced in all settings from jails to schools; but the Craig Hospital program is unique because of how supported and extensive it is.”

Hall works one-on-one with patients, showing them how to use adaptive tools and garden in a variety of raised beds. She also offers classes and group activities in the garden or the Craig Greenhouse. The group activities offer a means for occupational and speech therapists to address patient goals while working on functional skills.

“The classes are very diverse and have the full spectrum of patients. The therapists can relate the activity to whatever skill their patient needs to work on,” says Tom Carr, director of Therapeutic Recreation. “It’s co-treating, and Susie’s providing the expertise through the modality of therapeutic horticulture.”

Craig’s Horticultural Therapy program was launched in 1982 and has grown over the years and the garden has been relocated several times as the campus expanded. Several grants from the Colorado Garden Foundation as well as one from BellCo Credit Union in 2012 have funded several garden enhancement projects.

Ongoing operational support for the Gardens has come from donors, including Mike Hoops, co-owner of Organix Supply and his wife Rhea. Organix manufactures and distributes organic fertilizers and soils to a variety of industries, including consumer, landscape, and golf course products,

“Susie explained to us how well the patients responded to the therapy they received in the Garden. Being a gardener myself, I understand how one can get away from problems and limitations when working with living plants, seeing them respond and grow due to the care you have given them,” says Mike Hoops.

Hall says that patients thrive through this therapy. “People need to be able to nurture and give,” she says. “In a hospital environment, the attention is often on the patient and their medical needs and the opportunity to nurture does not exist —the Garden gives them that chance.”