(Editor's Note: This article was originally published onFebruary 13, 2008)

Stop whatever you are doing when the feeling starts, and go outside. Find a corner with a bit of garden, a tree or shrubs. Turn your brain off to everything except the smell of the pine tree, the prick of the needles. Hear the breeze whisper relax, relax. Look closely at the color of the leaves, notice that they aren't solid, but spots of many shades. Describe the sky. Is it gray like your mood, or bright and clean? Do the clouds have pictures today or are they all smeared like a poorly erased chalkboard? Breathe in, blow it out. Calm, calm.

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Garden therapy is a fast growing field, but you and I have known it all along, haven't we? Have a bad day, go pull some weeds while pretending it is your boss's hair you are pulling! Pinch those little bugs that are chewing away at the leaves of your flowering vines. Drown a few slugs from under the hosta. Ahhh, how satisfying is that? Plant seeds or bulbs trusting that spring will come again and your future will include food, or the beauty of flowers and butterflies.

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My favorite thing is good soil. I feel a bit like Scarlet O'Hara when I pick up a handful of dirt, hold it, feel it, smell it. Warm in the summer, cold in the winter, but always promising that if I take care of it, good things will happen.

On recent bad day, the only thing that helped was to go out with my big old fork and just stab away at the compost heap. It was a damp cold day, with drizzle and overcast skies, and my mood matched perfectly. I had to put on boots, my coat, hat and gloves. My nose was red, my eyes were stinging. Take that, to the person who put grocery carts in the handicapped spot. This stab's for you, insurance company that didn't pay the doctor's bill. Whack Whack, for the person who hit my car and left. I'll show you, higher gas prices! Drenched and tired I finally quit, but boy did I feel better when I came inside, plus it counted as exercise!

Calmer now, I cut some wonderful smelling fresh rosemary for a pot of soup, checked on the water level under the bulbs I'm forcing in the window. The apple blossom amaryllis has grown almost an inch today, is that a bud finally forming? I should have fresh flowers blooming soon. This is so much better. I can hear the pic pic of the downy woodpecker on the suet outside. That sure beats the banging in my head earlier today.

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So let's review: gardening provides hope, exercise, calmness and joy. You can let out stress, dream about the future, make plans, plant good things and pull out bad. Surely that is better than a visit to a doctor or taking pills? I thought you would agree with me. Wave if you see me in the garden as you drive by! I'll smile and wave back.


For more information about garden therapy, search Horticultural Therapy or Gardening Therapy.

Soil and compost heap pictures by mqiq77

Apple blossom amaryllis picture by Floridian

Downy Woodpecker picture by Marilynbeth

Other pictures by Cathy4