Horticultural Society Honors MossRehab’s Sachs Conservatory

By on 11/14/2017

Picture a placid, airy room with a trickling waterfall feature, smooth stones from the Wissahickon Creek, and a serpentine cedar bench set alongside rows of bright, fragrant, tropical plants, with more plants growing on a wall on the opposite side. Music plays softly in the background, and the atmosphere is enhanced by gentle mood lighting.

Most people wouldn’t mind spending time in such a space. That it’s in a rehabilitation facility, and open to patients, friends, families and employees makes it particularly special.

Patients and visitors to MossRehab would likely confirm that the rehabilitation facility’s Alice and Herbert Sachs Therapeutic Conservatory is a uniquely healing and restful place to spend time.

And there is so much more to the Conservatory than the peacefulness and beauty of that one room.

Now, the experts agree. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society—the folks who run the Philadelphia Flower Show—have recognized the Sachs Conservatory as a 2017 Garden of Distinction during the society’s annual Gardening and Greening Contest. The conservatory earned distinction in the Flower & Specialty Garden category. It was one of 387 entries.

Therapeutic Activities for Patients

Abby Jaroslow, HTR, is the MossRehab horticultural therapist who oversees the conservatory and its horticultural therapy program.

The first room—the one with the trickling waterfall and all the plants—is the showroom, Jaroslow says. That room is typically the first thing people see when they enter the space. What sets the Conservatory apart from other hospital gardens is that it plays a critical role in providing therapeutic activities for patients. Those activities take place in the grow room, just beyond, where patients come to take part in therapeutic activities, five afternoons per week.

“We incorporate whatever a patient’s therapy goals are,” she says. “The activities in a group include doing something with plants or nature materials. We could propagate plants, plant seeds, repot plants, create dish gardens and desert gardens. Patients can take the plants with them or give them as gifts. At the holidays, we do gift items, like herbal blends of teas, herbal soaps and potpourri. We make ornaments. We use pressed flowers, seed pods, dried nuts.”

All of these activities play a key role for patients as they recover from stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and other conditions. They gain practice in cognitive sequencing, increase strength, range of motion and balance, improve upper-limb integration and fine motor skills, while engaging in functional leisure tasks.

Rewarding to Have Been Recognized

Beyond the grow room is a work room where supplies are kept, along with the equipment that runs the showroom. Open the back door to the work room, and you find yourself on a bright, sunlit patio, lined with picnic tables.

The Conservatory opened April 10, 2014.

Jaroslow says she first heard about the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society competition and applied for the designation this past summer. “Then we got the news (about winning the award) a couple of weeks ago.”

Like those who visit the Conservatory, Jaroslow knows it’s a special place, but it’s rewarding to have been recognized. “What I’m really excited about,” she says, “is that it recognizes the importance of horticultural therapy and hospitals using therapeutic gardens. It acknowledges that it is an important component and something that can work and be successful, and be a benefit to the patients who are recovering and healing.”

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