“It really does give us a sense of purpose,” says Ebenezer Care Center resident Debbie Buschou as she waters a potted plant. Debbie and a dozen seniors gather with one such purpose–to plan their summer garden.
Once a week, the Ebenezer Care Center garden club, funded by generous donors, learn about plants and plan their outdoor garden. But the projects that this group works on as part of Ebenezer’s Horticultural Therapy Program do more than just beautify their corner of Minneapolis; they also serve as a constant reminder of some very important life lessons.
“Plants are really very amazing. If a plant breaks, in the way of all good plants and people, it just tries to grow again,” says Debbie as she mothers an ailing plant back to life. And who knows more about resilience than Debbie herself? A little over a year ago Debbie, suffering from congestive heart failure, had a bleak outlook on life.
“I was really brought here to die,” she says. Fortunately, Debbie not only survived, she thrived—thanks in part to her beloved plants.
When Debbie was still very ill, a horticultural therapist learned about her love of plants and brought an orchid to her room. “I had always loved gardening and receiving that flower helped reignite my passion. It gave me something to care for,” recalls Debbie. Now a garden club regular, Debbie waters the group’s plants in between gatherings and nurses along those in need of a little extra care.
Debbie’s experience is not necessarily unique, says Paula Vollmar-Heywood, director of Horticultural Therapy at Ebenezer Care Center. “People often forget to nurture themselves and caring for plants can help bring them back from that,” she says.
In fact, horticultural therapy has been proven to offer a host of emotional and physical benefits including increased self-esteem and self-confidence and a more developed sense of purpose, while providing an enjoyable physical activity.