People who garden often say there is more to it than putting plants and flowers in the ground. They feel a sense of serenity and well-being from getting their hands in the soil, from being outdoors and helping a living thing grow.
On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of Illinois Extension office and the McLean County Master Gardeners will offer a Horticultural Therapy Workshop at the Community Cancer Center in Normal. Its message: gardening can be healing.
"Horticulture therapy is about teaching people how to connect to the garden. It's not about what plants you grow," said Kelly Allsup, horticulture educator for the McLean County Extension office.
"I truly believe we were born to grow plants and be around soil and water and listen to nature."
Allsup, who also writes a gardening column for The Pantagraph, said Saturday's workshop is geared toward adults and children who may have a physical limitations or learning disabilities, or who simply are experiencing stress in their lives.
"It's a way to de-stress your life -- looking at trees and sky, hearing the wind, letting it blow across your face," Allsup said.
The Cancer Center garden was chosen as the location for the workshop because "we want to tell people gardening has healing properties, being in nature, lowering the blood pressure, being calm and being in a serene place, talking your mind off the worries of life," Allsup said.
The McLean County Master Gardeners have spent the past few years turning the Cancer Center garden into a community showcase. It features a stone-based waterfall, a large labyrinth for walking meditation, and a wide and colorful variety of flowers, native plants, trees and fruit-bearing shrubs.
Allsup said University of Illinois researchers have found that students who spend a short time in nature before taking a test, feel less anxiety and perform better on the test. Students who are allowed to spend some time outdoors in nature also exhibit less anger and fewer behavior problems in the classroom.
Nature walks also have been found to help people with attention deficit disorder. There are also community benefits to having gardens, research shows.
"People are less likely to commit crime, feel more at home and have less stress," in communities with abundant natural space, Allsup said.
"Our lives so busy with so much packed in, sometimes we just need to take five minutes a day to appreciate nature," she added.
The Saturday workshop includes an opening session on horticultural therapy by Mike Maddox of the University of Wisconsin Extension office, followed by breakout sessions on such topics as Floral Design to Music, Walking a Labyrinth, Sensory Gardening, Modifying the Garden Experience, Nature Journaling and Making Dried Flower Cards.
There is a $40 fee for the workshop that includes lunch.
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