From humble beginnings – sensory gardens as recognised therapy
May 09, 2017
Steven Wells
From humble beginnings – sensory gardens as recognised therapy

Horticultural therapy might at first seem a radical idea but is actually an old concept, harking back to the Victorian era and beyond, when the healing influence of nature was more commonly recognised through the creation of hospital gardens.

The idea has been rekindled in Steven’s role as gardens and grounds project officer, which is focused on creating and developing gardens to improve the therapeutic hospital environment of Austin Health.  The project was established in 2010 and has developed 20 garden projects to date, funded from donations, bequests and non-operational funds.

At Austin Health’s Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, Steven’s horticultural therapy involves working with patients with acquired brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and strokes, using gardening activities like potting and propagation to help patients with their rehabilitation goals.  Patients might need to practise using fine motor skills, for example, or work on communication or planning. Horticultural therapy is one of a suite of creative therapies offered at Austin Health.

Steven has successfully combined his nursing and horticulture careers to be working as a nurse, a horticultural therapist and the gardens and grounds project officer at Austin Health in Melbourne.  He studied horticulture at The University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus and is the 2012 ABC Gardening Australia ‘Gardener of the Year’. In 2015 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to travel overseas and research the development, use and management of therapeutic gardens in healthcare settings.

Having grown up on a market garden and orange orchard he has ‘green blood’ and is a keen gardener. He is passionate about sharing the benefits of gardening, horticultural therapy and people-plant connections.