When you walk in off the street, you’ll notice an immediate change in your blood pressure. The Enid A. Haupt Glass Garden– the horticultural therapy branch of the NYU (New York University) Medical Center– is just a stone’s throw away from FDR Drive. But the tranquility of the garden, and the history of its role in healing, defy the limitations of its undeniably urban confines.
The garden is part of The Howard A. Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU, founded in 1949; Howard Rusk was a pioneer in the then nascent disabilities movement. With returning soldiers and the polio epidemic in the background, he convinced Enid Haupt to donate a greenhouse to the Institute in 1959. Once she observed how much the 1700 sq. ft. glass greenhouse meant to patients, Ms Haupt decided that greenhouses were her philanthropic theme. Perhaps her best-known subsequent donation is the much larger conservatory at the New York Botanic Garden.
Here at NYU, the original glass greenhouse is now surrounded by gardens designed to evoke natural rhythms that are restorative and encourage healing.
The evolving role of healthcare environments has meant that they’re no longer intended for leisurely recovery—focusing instead upon those populations requiring acute care. The Glass Garden specializes in these; from cardiac rehabilitation patients to autistic children, the staff of twelve–half gardeners and half horticultural therapists—designs programs for a wide range of special needs. They’ve worked with HIV-positive children, the selectively mute, nursery school children with disabilities, and in their “Budding Gardener” program, children from the surrounding urban community. They run programs for seniors, including regular outings for nursing home residents, workshops for second stage Alzheimer patients, and those with aphasia. They also train staff in other public gardens to meet the needs of special populations, and prepare landscape architects to design therapeutic environments. 100,000 people visit the gardens and greenhouse annually (it’s open every day of the year)– many are hospital staff and family of patients.
Research is a component in most of the garden’s programs. Over the past 20 years, the Garden has made the most of its resources by identifying groups with special needs, then partnering with them to integrate theory and practice. They never hesitate to try something new– for Nancy Chambers, the Glass Garden’s Director, and her staff– it’s all part of believing in the restorative power of gardens.
For an inspiring view of the transformative power of gardens, I highly recommend you visit their website, .