“Here the priority, this is not the garden, these are the patients: everything has been designed for them”, says Philippe Ledogar, responsible for the green spaces of the hospital Saint-Julien, Nancy, by naming the courtyard transformed into a garden and therapeutic since 2010. This confined space, a little less than 4 000 m2, planted with a double row of plane trees, sugar maples, and trees to caramel (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) – so named because of the strong smell given off by their fruit in the fall, is both a haven and a space of care for the sick who come there to relax. Mainly elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease or serious illnesses in the palliative phase or in rehabilitation.

“We can simultaneously fifty patients for short stays of four to five weeks,” explains Dr. Theresa Jonveaux, a neurologist and head of the department of follow-up care and rehabilitation (SSR), which has been at the initiative of this project as early as 2001, at a time when the hortithérapie was in its infancy in France.

The picking of the cherries. SÉBASTIEN SORIANO/Le Figaro, A space of wandering free and secure

“the environment of The patients in the broad sense is a crucial aspect, especially for those with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, because it may worsen or, on the contrary, improve the symptoms,” she says. From this point of view, the garden, compared to the hospital with its long corridors neutral, its codes and its taboos, provides a space of freedom to be extremely beneficial and stimulating.”

The Alzheimer plan 2008-2012 which recommends the creation of gardens for therapeutic comfort to the Dr. Jonveaux and his team, at the moment the project is in development phase. The objective is twofold: to create a space to walk freely and securely open to patients, their families and their loved ones 24 hours on 24 (“except when there is snow or ice”) and arouse positive emotions in contact with the plant, but also a furniture user-friendly and original artwork installed in the flower beds.

“of course, We have kept the trees, the peonies shrub, splendid at the time of flowering, as well as the four square of the garden of origin, but by creating events around the fundamental elements of earth, air, fire and water,” explains Dr. Jonveaux before the roses red and the spirées of the square of the fire. In the middle of the mound of volcanic rock identified to give relief, benches allow you to sit down and collect, without seeing the facade of the hospital, giving the impression of being elsewhere,

“Shoals of conversation” View on the courtyard of the hospital transformed into a garden and therapeutic since September 2010. SÉBASTIEN SORIANO/Le Figaro

“The garden is a living place whose appearance changes according to the seasons but also the weather, so that the hospital room the best decorated will always be a place frozen, static, stresses the psychologist Émeline Nasson. There is also an entire sensory dimension with the perfumes, the colors but also the noise of the water fountains or the cherries or the plums that we are going to pick on the tree.”

The care, therapy (motor skills, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language) take place as much as possible in the garden: “It is more motivating, for the sick, to do their walking exercise outside in the middle of trees and flowers rather than in the training room, even if the latter remains indispensable,” says Émeline Nasson. The “benches of conversation” designed by the doctor sculptor Reinhard Fescharek also facilitate the dialogue, the meetings and the contact with the families.

the readability of The landscape is also an important element. The pathways that patients take, including the persons who are disoriented, they can be found easily, without obstacles or dead-ends, generators of anxiety. Plantings, trees, sculptures, benches to serve as points of reference. “When a plant is damaged or torn, we will replace it immediately for it to disturb the less possible”, explains Philippe Ledogar, who devotes half a day per week at maintenance.

a shared Experience with the long-term care

For Dr. Jonveaux, the balance is very positive: “For the last eight years, we find that the attendance of the garden decreases the sleep disorders, so taking sedatives, improves self-awareness, the perception of his body, releases the word, stimulates the senses and the memory, by bringing back up the memories. It is also a space of recovery for carers. Many come here to relax during their rest time.” Today, in his quality of a pioneer, Dr. Jonveaux sharing his experience with the long-term care facilities of the region and eager to follow his example. “The vast majority of these facilities have green areas, but most of the time they are not accessible to residents for security reasons. It is a pity, because this potential is not exploited to its fair value,” she notes.

On the national level, the garden therapy has the wind in its sails for a few years, even if the resistances persist. “The garden and gardening are not yet entered in the upper room of the therapies recognized and compelling, says Anne Chahine, president of the association Gardens & Health. A long work remains to be done to make their benefits scientifically indisputable.”


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