Let Love Grow

Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Twice a month, approximately thirty caregivers and individuals living memory impairments come to Naples Botanical Garden to attend a therapeutic horticulture program offered through a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Support Network. The program consists of a calming sensory tour of the Gardens and concludes with a horticulture-related activity in the Buehler Family Foundation Enabling Garden.

Inspired by Valentine’s Day, this month’s theme was all about celebrating love.

Participants observed a vibrant red passionflower in the Kapnick Brazilian Garden, danced the tango (in honor of the ‘Blue Tango Bromeliad’), smelled the Ylang Ylang flower (used to make the famous perfume, Chanel No.5), and potted up heart-shaped Hoya kerrii. The prompt to use a blushing pink doily to send a message to their loved one produced heart-warming affirmations such as, “Love You Always,” “I Still Love You, Honey,” and “Love Did Grow.” Caregivers and loved ones alike were “feeling the love,” and great conversation and beautiful connections were conjured up throughout the program.

Touching moments were only heightened by the inclusion of music during the therapeutic horticulture activity. One week, the appearance of a record player brought back fond memories for all. The Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love” made it into the Garden via a vinyl hand-selected by a participant, launching a conversation on recalling the members of the famous trio and favorite musicians. Another week, a volunteer violinist played vintage love tunes which tugged at the heartstrings of participants, evidenced from excess amounts of hand-holding, singing the lyrics, and, in the case of one gentleman who used to play the violin, even pretending to play along.

These special programs use a unique combination of sensory engagement, strategic social interaction, environmental education, and physical gardening tasks to encourage memory recollection, reduce stress, and reinforce relationships between both caregivers and those with memory impairments. By fusing elements of horticultural, art, and music therapies into the programs, the Garden is able provide both caregivers and those living with Alzheimer’s Disease alike with a time of peace, joy, and the opportunity to form intimate connections between people and plants while in the Garden.

by: Taylor Burnham, Buehler Enabling Garden Coordinator