The Tulip House is a greenhouse used in the hospital’s horticulture therapy program. The horticulture therapy program started in 2001, and is called GROWTH – for Gaining Rehabilitative Outcomes and Wellness through Horticulture.
Horticulture Therapy helps individuals learn new skills or recall former skills, aiding in memory, problem solving and sequencing. A patient can work on the same goals as in physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy by standing erect to work with plants, using both hands for exercise and strengthening, building overall endurance and socializing with fellow gardeners for speech improvement. The goal is to build patients’ self-esteem, increase their motivation, offer them the opportunity to socialize, inspire creativity, provide recreation and stress management.
Horticulture Therapy may involve the use of adapted or modified tools to enable persons with physical disabilities to participate more fully in gardening activities. The activities offer patients the opportunities to improve their fine motor skills, upper body mobility, balance and endurance.
Anita Mize, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist and Horticulture Coordinator, incorporates horticulture into patients’ treatment goals. Patients can come to the "Grow Room" on the first floor of the Jim Thorpe Rehab building and work with plants either in the room or on the adjacent outside porch. Patients who cannot come to the room due to special reasons can still participate in their hospital rooms or dinning rooms with the therapist. Patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries can practice dexterity by shoveling dirt into a pot and placing a plant there. Other patients can sift dirt and soil amendments to improve their hand coordination and produce good soil for potting. “It’s kind of more self-directed than other forms of therapy. Patients get a lot of confidence. It’s very peaceful,” said Susan Shepard, Clinical Manager.
A recent patient donated the money to build the house after she spent a few weeks at INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe recovering from a car accident with a semi-tractor trailer last year. She was so inspired by the horticulture therapy program that she donated the greenhouse for patients.
Many elderly patients who have had gardens in the past love the horticulture therapy. “They may not be able to do their own tomato plants, but they can re-pot a plant here,” Shepard says. One of the most popular activities is to make lemonade by hand – which improves the upper body as patients roll the lemons to soften them before squeezing them.
Patients also paint clay pots and plant ivy and other plants in them. They make potpourri from the flowers they receive during their hospital stays and place it in glass baby food jars they have decorated.
In the winter, patients coat pine cones with peanut butter and roll them in birdseed for birds to feast on. The patio outside of the greenhouse is filled with pots, some with just the beginnings of life, other overflowing with greenery. Patients are growing tomatoes, snapdragons and impatiens, even pumpkin vines. By emphasizing container gardening, therapists are teaching patients a skill they can continue at home.
Benefits of the Horticulture Program at Jim Thorpe Rehab:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased muscle tension
- Improved positive mood
- Improved socialization
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased endurance and strength
- Decreased pain and stress