Saturday, April 19, 2003

Gardener to gardener

Therapy idea still spreading its beauty

By Peg St. Clair

In 1952, Greater Cincinnati residents Mrs. Theodore Jentelson and Mrs. Hy Kanter, housemakers and mothers, began to plant the seeds of a dream. Concerned about the plight of the mentally ill, they hoped the therapeutic qualities they so loved about gardening could be shared. If a patient could see a plant thrive and grow, perhaps they could see that growth and change could happen in their own lives, the women reasoned.

They created what they called a "magic garden" of lily of the valley pips and maranta foliage planted in peat moss, a miniature garden that bloomed in only 25 days. The women took these "magic gardens" to patients at the then-Longview Mental State Hospital. They and other gardening volunteers met weekly with patients and worked with them in a greenhouse on the grounds.

What: Cincinnati Flower Show, presented by Provident Bank
When: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-next Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. April 27.
Where: Coney Island, on the banks of Lake Como, Kellogg Avenue.
Tickets: $15 adults, $3 ages 3-12. Advance tickets ($11) through Sunday at Kroger and Provident Bank locations; by phone, 872-5194 or (800) 670-6808, or at
Miscellaneous: End-of-show sale of some props and plants will start 6 p.m. April 27.
Later, volunteers also worked with juveniles who were wards of Hamilton County. In the late 1950s, a tabletop greenhouse was introduced which allowed gardeners to take the gardens on the road. Longview, Emerson North Hospital, Glenview School, Children's Hospital Medical Center, nursing homes and facilities for disabled children were some of the places where tabletop greenhouses were maintained.

The group developed an eight-week training course in horticulture and gardening-related crafts the leaders called Flora Therapy. The class was offered to the professional staffs of various agencies and gardening volunteers.

In 1988, Flora Therapy was serving 53 organizations. But soon, because it was challenging to find enough volunteers, many of the tabletop greenhouses were donated to the facilities. Flora Therapy disbanded in the early 1990s.

Reminiscent of those efforts, a garden for physically challenged gardeners, "Gardening Within Your Reach," designed by Campbell County extension agent David Koester, will be at the Cincinnati Flower Show.

The garden will include structures, such as raised flower beds, tools and gardening ideas for anyone with a limiting condition, whether it be illness, disability or age. Adaptable tools will be included in the display, including long-reach water wands and hoes and easy-grip hand tools.

After the flower show, the structures will be placed in the Lakeside Commons Educational Gardens at the Campbell County Extension Service on Alexandria Pike in Highland Heights.

Contact Peg St. Clair by phone: 541-4680; Web site:

Flora therapy, nowcalled horticultural therapy, will be offered as a certificate or degree program at the University of Cincinnati this fall. Information: Dr. Laurie Renz, program director, 732-5266.

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Flower show tidbits
Events include teas and puppets
'Ask the Experts' schedule
Horticulture & History hook up
Therapy idea still spreading its beauty

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