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In recent years, gardens have been popping up in some unconventional places – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes to programs for troubled youth.

Most are handy sources of fresh and local food, but increasingly they’re also an extension of therapy for people with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times and today, those of us with green thumbs and dirt-laden hands have long known that gardening is good for you – both physically and mentally.

But now that’s been proven scientifically. Researchers have found that smelling roses and pulling up weeds can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and produce a generally upbeat feeling. Even just looking at a garden can give you a positive boost. The evidence is so compelling that the health factor has been given its own name – horticultural therapy – and is being used to treat hospital patients, plan cities and even to calm prisoners in jails.

Horticultural therapists say gardens produce the most positive effects on mental health. They do this by providing a sense of control – the psychological counter to stress and anxiety. The science is now being used in hospitals and rehabilitation centers in the U.S., where “healing gardens” have been created for patients to look at and walk through.

For patients who find themselves restricted by a disability, even the simplest gardening experience – such as growing a potted plant from a cutting – can give them a feeling of control. More than most rehab activities, gardening also has the ability to be very distracting. Simply by taking people’s minds off their problems, pain and depression can be alleviated.

But the applications are not just restricted to hospitals. Horticultural therapists are also being employed by major cities such as Chicago to help plan parks and botanical gardens. Even New York’s notorious Rikers Island Jail is using horticultural therapy to calm prisoners and prepare them for their release.

Well, if gardening can do all that for people with physical or mental disabilities – or those locked up behind bars – imagine what it can do for those among us in good health, of sound mind, and maybe simply in need of another means of creative expression.

Whatever motivates you to put on the gloves and go toe-to-toe with dirt, shrubbery, flowers, veggies, or whatever else turns you on, we hope you’ll spend more time in the garden for everything it has to offer.

At the same time, don’t let a little thing like the lack of an outdoor faucet deter you. Because that’s just one of many indoor and outdoor plumbing solutions we provide here at Conway Services. So give us a call – we’d be glad to lend a helping gardening hand.

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