Designforgenerations’s Blog


The Mid-Atlantic Horticultural Therapy Network of the American Horticultural Therapy Association was an exhibitor at the 2010 Philadelphia Flower Show for the first time.  The Show is the largest indoor flower show in the world with attendance of over 250,000 people. The horticultural therapy exhibit presented many of the ways in which HT is presented to the various populations served.  There were raised planters, adaptive tools, sensory plants and many other aspects of the profession for people to experience.

Comments offered by many of the people stopping by the exhibit were extremely encouraging.  People talked about how they were positively affected by their involvement with horticultural therapy while they were in hospital and other instances.  They talked about how it had positively impacted family members in a variety of settings.  The exhibit even received several awards for display and presentation.

Philadelphia Flower Show

Horticultural therapy exhibt at the Philadelphia Flower Show

You can read more about horticultural therapy exhibit and the Flower Show at:


Therapeutic Gardens and Exercise

Therapeutic Gardens and Exercise

We lose muscle as we age.  This is a fact.  As we get older, our muscles shrink.  However, we do not have to sit back and think that there is nothing we can do about it.  Exercise can reverse this trend.  The old adage, ‘use it or lose it’ takes on even more significance.  A story on NPR’s Morning Edition today talks about the studies that are being conducted to show how exercise can help people build new muscle at any age.  People in their 80’s who exercise with weights, as an example, increase muscle and get stronger.  (A link to the story is below).

So, how does this translate to the garden?  When we are outside moving a wheel barrow that is filled with tools or soil, we are in fact weight training.  Digging holes for new plants, trimming shrubs, cutting branches, sweeping the walk, moving garden furniture, raking the lawn incorporate bending, stretching, reaching, and other movements that are good for us.  The tools we are using act as weights and we are doing two things at the same time.  We are working in our garden and simultaneously exercising in a very soothing gym.  The result is that we are all rebuilding muscle that has been lost to a natural occurrence called aging. We are also creating a beautiful environment that we can all enjoy.

The garden is therapeutic.  We can classify this aspect of gardening as good for our health.  The activities listed above, and so many more, can be performed by people at any age.  This is the active part of using the garden.   We are creating gardens that we can look at and feel good about.  We are also creating gardens in which we can exercise and improve our health. The link to the NPR 2-22-10 story can be found at:


There are special collectors for all kinds of items, such as rare coins, subway tokens, Pez dispensers and cow creamers.  Well, it should come as no surprise that there are people who collect the seeds from plants.  And, there are seed exchanges that you can join too swap the seeds that you have collected.

This is a great hobby for the gardener who would like to grow an unusual variety of tomato or other vegetables and perennials.  These plants are not the ones you would typically find in plant catalogs.  They are special seeds that have been traded to the seed exchanges.  There is typically a fee to join a seed exchange.



This may be just the gift to give for an avid gardener for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or other special occasion.  It is a perfect gift for elders in a senior community who have a garden and would like to grow special plants this year.

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal contains an article on the subject –


February 2nd is the day when a (nearly) famous groundhog emerges to see his shadow.  If he does in fact see his shadow, it signals six more weeks of winter.  (Even if he does not see his shadow – there are still six more weeks of winter.)   It is a day of parties and merriment in Punxsutawney, PA.  You may recall the movie with Bill Murray – Groundhog Day.

It was actually Germans immigrants who brought along their tradition of celebrating the midpoint of winter.  They did were not able to find any badgers in PA and had to use the groundhog to carry on the tradition.  It is a day that signifies that we have reached the halfway mark in winter.

The hibernating animals are beginning to stir in their underground nests.  I think that is how we all are feeling.  The sun’s light is getting a little longer each day and the warmth of the it’s rays feels good on our skin.  We can almost taste the days of spring ahead.  There are a few other signs to look for, such as the snow drops and crocus beginning to emerge from the ground. The bods of the flowering trees start to swell.   I saw a few hostas peaking through a sheltered part of the garden last week.

These feelings that we have a real and remind us of our connection to nature.  We start to look through catalogs and plan our garden.

Signs of spring

Looking for signs of spring

The Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world,  is attended by over 250,000 people.  They are hungry for a taste of spring – even if it is literally forced.  So, take heart, spring is not all that far away.  The groundhog and other indicators remind us that we are half way there.


Even though the temperatures may deter us from venturing outside for any great length of time, there are breaks that give us a short window to escape outside to start to plan and dream of spring. There are chores to do like picking up fallen branches, cutting back the ornamental grasses and pruning the trees and shrubs while they are dormant.  It is also a  good time to look at your vegetable garden.  This is a good time to expand the garden or reorganize what you planted last year.

So, on the colder days, we can retreat indoors and forage through the seed catalogs and gardening web sites.  This is the time to plan what vegetables you want to plant for the coming year.  What has worked well and what new varieties do you want ti try in 2010?  Some of the ‘new’ varieties may actually be vegetable plants that have been around for years and just forgotten until recently.  They are the ‘Heirloom’ plants that offer more flavor and are interesting to grow because of their unusual colors.  There are green tomatoes such as Aunt Ruby’s German Cherry and Emerald Green.  The Rattlesnake pole beans are fun to grow because of their green pods with purple streaks.

Be adventurous and include these or other heirloom varieties in your garden this year.  The results will surely make your garden the talk of the neighborhood.  Not only will you have some fum new vegetables to try at dinner, they will make the meal look more interesting.


An article in the Wall Street Journal (1-5-10-WSJ) focuses on the importance of exercise in our lives everyday.  ‘The Hidden Benefits of Exercise‘ by Laura Landro highlights why we need to refocus attention on creating a variety of forms of exercise.  ‘Just do it’ takes on special meaning when we realize how spending 30 to 60 minutes a day can protect us against a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to cancer.

The federal government issued guidelines in 2008 and is developing a national plan to encourage following the guidelines.  Moderate forms of activity include “ballroom and line dancing; biking on level ground or with a few hills; canoeing; gardening (raking, trimming shrubs); tennis (doubles); brisk walking; water aerobics.”  More vigorous exercise includes “biking faster than 10 miles an hour; ‘heavy’ gardening (digging and hoeing); tennis (singles); hiking uphill; jogging or running.” Incorporating gardening as part of a regular exercise regime will accomplish our need for exercise in a creative and stress-reducing manner. We might as well have fun while we are exercising.  The fruits of our labor might just be some special vegetables for the table.

Exercise programs also

The benefits of exercise

One of the benefits of exercise can include fresh vegetables

offer benefits at any age and can be especially important for people over 40.  The WSJ article references the publication “Fit to Live” by Pamela Peeke, MD.  Dr. Peeke discusses how, as we age, ‘physical strength, endurance, flexibility and balance begin to decline.’ Including regular exercise as a part of our daily routine can help to slow the aging process. The complete WSJ article can be found at:


Good news!  We made it through the shortest day of the year, yesterday, December 21st.  This day marks the midpoint of the year, which occurred at 5:47 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (12:47 Eastern Standard Time).   The Winter Solstice has the least amount of sunlight and the longest night during the year.  In all actuality, the  sun’s rise will continue to occur later through the month of January, while sunsets will occur later in the evening.  This all seems to balance out as the amount of day light each day begins to lengthen.

This demarcation of the middle of winter was very important for our ancestors who had to meter out their food to survive the long winters.  Feasts and celebrations were held during this time as a way of marking the event.  Religious holidays occur at this time of year.  This time of year is also symbolic as the start of a new year and the hopes for good things to come.

Midwinter also affects us individually.  The shorter days mean that our bodies produce more melatonin, which offsets our circadian rhythms.  We want to sleep longer during these winter months.  Exposure to sunlight is one of the best and most effective ways to help balance our circadian rhythms.  Taking a walk during the day may be one of the best way to help balance our bodies natural cycles.  So, make a resolution to walk more.  Find a friend

Greenwich Mean Time

Visiting Greenwich, England

to walk with.  The companionship and socialization will help spur you on.  Walking is the easiest and least costly form of exercise that we can do, at any age.  Dr. Weil has information on what to consider when setting out for a walk.   Visit the “Ask Dr. Weil” Tip of the Day at the website: