Dr. Hortfreud Reveals Five Types of Garden Therapy

Working under a grant provided by iGROW (Institute for Gardenetics Research and Other Works*), Dr. Hortfreud recently published an important paper on the five primary types of garden therapy, as observed… well it doesn’t really matter where she observed these five types of garden therapy in action, does it?

We just need to know that through “extensive research”, Dr Hortfreud identified that there is more than one way for a gardener to get therapy from her garden. There are five.

Garden ritual therapy occurs over the course of the year as the events of the garden unfold gradually, one day at a time, one ritual at a time.

Waiting for the first crocus to bloom. Planting pansies in containers on the front porch. Sowing peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Picking the first ripe tomato. As each ritual is anticipated, observed, and then remembered, we learn through this therapy that as much as things change, there is a sameness, a rhythm to the garden that is comforting.

Garden digging therapy happens in bursts of great energy and enthusiasm as the gardener tackles the most arduous and physical tasks of gardening and problem solving.

Through sweat and occasional blood, we work out our troubles in and out of the garden. We reclaim a flower bed, choked out with weeds. We determine a course of action to solve a problem left outside the garden gate. When there is no hole to be dug or garden bed to be reclaimed, we turn to mowing. We tell our friends that before a major decision can be made, we must mow on it. And then we set about mowing the lawn, sweating out the issue, until at last the therapy session ends, and we’ve made a decision.

Garden maintenance therapy is for refreshing the psyche of the gardener.

During times of quiet activity in the garden, we ponder the day, think about new plans, new flowers, new goals for the garden. Our hands comfortably hold the pruners as we methodically deadhead a flower border. Almost without thinking, we find the faded blooms and cut them out. We weed, rarely pausing to know if the plant is a weed or not. We know, we just do it. By the time we have finished, our psyche is refreshed and we are ready for another day outside of the garden.

Garden visiting therapy occurs when we venture out of the garden and go see other gardens.

If we only see our own garden, we become stale and the garden becomes stale. The cure is to visit other gardens and talk to other gardeners, to see and learn new ways of gardening, to find new plants. All these ideas can be brought back to our own gardens, where they can be put into action, bringing new life to a garden that seems to us like a barren desert in its sameness. There are two other forms of this therapy. One is to invite others to our gardens where they can help us see the garden through their eyes. The other is to go to garden centers and nurseries to see what possibilities there are for the garden. This type of therapy, in any form, is obviously best done as group therapy, with other gardeners.

Finally, there is garden relaxation therapy which occurs when we are able to just walk about the garden and not feel compelled to do anything but enjoy it.

This is an advanced state to reach in the world of garden therapy, and some gardeners never reach it. They walk through their garden and see plants to water, branches to prune, a patch of earth that calls out for a new plant. But if one day they can walk about their garden and just enjoy it, then that is the greatest therapy of all.

*I made up iGROW, you know that, right? And you know about Dr. Hortfreud, too, don’t you? She is my garden therapist. Dr. Hortfreud, by the way, is qualified to assist with all types of garden therapy.


  1. I can truly say that I have said to anyone re a problem, "Let me mow on that." Perhaps I should!

  2. wow.. interesting... really liked your blog today. i will try to reach the relaxation therapy more often by "being aware". have a great day!!!! nadia

  3. Garden relaxation therapy has never been attained here - but it's lovely to dream about.

  4. I have been partaking in most of these forms of garden therapy lately. I have toured a friends garden. I have looked out into my garden to find a friend looking for signs of spring in my garden. Just last night we had a drink on the patio with the neighbors who we hadn't seen all winter. The neighborhood is coming alive with more dogs barking and birds are carrying nesting material here and there. Let the fun begin I say.

  5. Hah! Great summary. Does Garden Escape Therapy fit in there somewhere? Or Housework Avoidance Therapy?

    Robin Ripley

  6. yesterday I did some garden visiting therapy at my local garden centers.

    Can't wait to do all the therapy's you made mention of this year...

    Saturday is the first day of spring Yahoo!

  7. So true.... Garden therapy bets a shrink any day! :)

  8. Ha yes! Whenever I sit down in the garden, I find my eye wandering and my mind thinking "I need to pull that weed" or "That shrub needs pruning" or something. I find it easier to sit on the patio and relax at night, when it's too dark to see the work that needs to be done!

  9. Five good reasons why I miss having a garden. I think lack of garden therapy was a big part of why I was feeling rather depressed last year.
    I do quite a lot of garden visiting therapy, but without being able to put any of the idea into action, it's not helping much.

  10. I know all about garden digging therapy, and it certainly works! Lovely post.

  11. Many fit me, but I think best fit is Garden maintenance therapy. Matti

  12. Dr. Hortfreud is very wise. My preferred forms of therapy are Garden digging therapy and Garden maintenance therapy.

  13. Ah, but Dr. F, I need some behavior therapy right now, as my garden is still under quite a lot of snow. Perhaps some positive self-talk like: "Spring is coming, soon now, just hold on another month...."

    Christine in Alaska

  14. Is there really a garden relaxation therapy or is that just a theory? Sometimes I have garden avoidance, which is when I avoid going out there so that I won't get sucked into something like weeding when I really really have to get other things done!

  15. Sigh! My attempts at garden relaxation therapy lead my to digging and maintenance as I make mental notes of all the things that I have yet to do! And visiting therapy leads me right to the nearest garden center for more digging and maintenance....a self-reinforcing cycle....


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