With the ongoing climate and pandemic crises, it is more important than ever to ask the question, “why are gardens important?”
“The Healing Power of Gardens,” a May 2019 Brain Pickings article written by founder Maria Popova, addresses the question. She quotes Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author who once described New York as a city “sometimes made bearable… only by its gardens.” Sacks brought his patients into gardens to treat them with the unquantifiable presence of nature, and found the following results:
In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens… I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.
– Oliver Sacks, Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales
Gardens speak to food and nutrition, physical activity, social connection, and, as Sacks highlights, mental health. They are often the only way many of us touch nature and provide one of the few routes to understanding the importance of biodiversity to a resilient world.
On top of such understandings, the societal need for nature’s “calming and organizing effects” to endure a global pandemic has made it doubly difficult to close gardens to the public. According to the North America-wide American Public Garden Association, over 93% of their member gardens are closed. They have to be if they are to play a part in ending the pandemic.
Here at UBC Botanical Garden, we have launched a 360°video with our partners, Greenheart TreeWalk, which takes you away from your home office and into the forest canopy in the Garden. High above the forest floor, you’ll be able to walk among the cedars and hemlocks and listen to the birds in the canopy and other sounds of nature.
Virtual experiences are increasingly being developed and tested for impacts on wellbeing, mental and physical health. While I recognize that it is not the same as experiencing the real thing, I do hope you enjoy your virtual walk in the treetops and feel the important connection to the land, air and trees such spaces provide us.
Happy Earth Week!
Patrick Lewis, Director, UBC Botanical Garden
Never viewed 360 before? Once the YouTube video has loaded, click your mouse on the arrow pad to view the scenery as the camera moves. Tip: if you’re watching on mobile, tilt your phone up, down and side to side to take in the full 360 view.