Thomas Jefferson once declared, “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” Since March, both clients and staff of the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute have been doing exactly that by growing a variety of herbs in a hand-constructed container garden conveniently next to the Institute’s recreational centre from where clients can look out of the window and observe. The herbs at present include chives, plain Italian parsley, sage, lemon balm, curly parsley, Thai basil, mint and sweet marjoram, and are greatly appreciated by Bermuda Hospitals Board executive chef Thomas Frost, who started using them in recipes in KEMH’s kitchen a few months ago. “These new MWI homegrown plants will further enhance our commitment to culinary excellence,” he says. From a practical point of view, the herbs from the garden not only help the chefs create better taste but also save the Food Services Department $120 a week since they are donated.
Recreational therapist Donovan Williams, who heads the project through the New Dimensions Day Programme, says that the project has been a great success. For many participants, including recreational therapist Akil Darrell, gardening has been an entirely new experience. Clients in wheelchairs are also able to participate since the container is raised. “Gardening is a very calming experience,” says Darrell, “especially watering the plants. It’s very soothing and keeps you calm and relaxed.”
As Juliet Basden, activities coordinator, says, “The programme is vital for our clients’ enrichment.” The clients, who range in age from 24 to 60, like to work outside. “It keeps the younger ones, who can do the heavier work such as lifting buckets, energised while the older are able to work at their own pace.” Williams agrees saying, “Our clients really look forward to gardening. The more they do it, the more they like it.” The project is also appealing to community groups who live outside the MWI.
Plans are in place to create another four container herb gardens so that more participants can be involved and herbs can be harvested throughout the year at regular intervals. Williams is also planning to grow sunflower seeds, which like the herbs will attract bees and butterflies and add to the learning experience.