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Gardening for Health

Nature, the Do-It-Yourself Way

Even seniors whose environments do not include attractive views or actual gardens can get close to nature, says Teresa Hazan, a horticultural therapist at Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore., which provides therapy for patients at local hospitals.

She recommends that senior residences set up outdoor gardens, accessible to all. Three to five large clay pots are enough: one for favorite herbs, one for a shrub or tree, another for flowers or vegetables. A plant in anyone's room can also be healing, she says. When you become dependent on others and have less control over your life, says Hazan, it's very restorative to have something that's dependent on you.

Two Women's Success Stories

A single amaryllis bulb drew Jo Clayton, a science fiction and fantasy writer and author of 35 novels, out of depression when she was struggling with bone cancer, Hazan says. "We spoke about the power of the amaryllis bulb," says Hazan, "and I compared it to the power in her." Clayton, who had never gone outdoors much, began spending time in nature, painting landscapes and resolving issues with family members before her death.

In O. Henry's short story "The Last Leaf," a young Greenwich Village artist is sustained through pneumonia by looking out her window at an ivy vine. The view is a painted one, though the heroine doesn't know this, and it gives her the strength to recover.

A Testimonial to Nature

Gene Gach is convinced that his own involvement with nature has contributed to his health as well. "And my doctors have no other explanation. Being in nature is completely different from taxes and all the worries of modern life. You have a sense of health and regeneration, a completely innocent excitement about all the life that is growing around you, and you know you are part of it.

"As a matter of fact, my only health problem is that sometimes I have trouble falling asleep. But even here the flowers help. I just repeat them, alphabetically, from memory, and I'm asleep in no time."

Acacia, agapanthus, aloe, almond, amaryllis, anemone, antherium, apple.

"Try it! I guarantee it works."

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