Community Education, Wellness, and You

Community Education has long been a staple of offerings at the Gardens at HCP. Our mission is to ‘connect people with plants’ and while this is always our focus Community Education allows people to connect with not only the plants themselves but also the art that can be created, the animals who are tied to the plants we grow, and a greater understanding of the world around us. Our Community Education Coordinator, Cheri le Brun, sat down to talk with us about what exciting new courses you can take at the Gardens at HCP!
Question 1: You are starting to introduce a new series of Community Education about Wellness. What inspired you to bring these courses to the Gardens at  HCP?
I have been aware of the link between wellness and nature for some time and read some great science based articles on the topic. Gardening is one of the most common ways of interacting with nature and many people volunteer with us for that reason. One of our wonderful and wise volunteers pointed out that the Gardens provide a health benefit to visitors. This got me thinking of how we can enhance the wellness experience for those who don’t want to or are not able to get their hands in the dirt by gardening. Serendipitously I was approached by the Peter Hehl and Kelly Kiss of Salish Sea Forest & Nature Therapy Walks regarding Forest Bathing workshops at the HCP. Their enthusiasm on the topic matched with the healing abilities of forest bathing made it a perfect addition for our community education program. Soon after I had the good fortune of connecting with Certified Life and Health Coach Marnie Dangerfield. Marnie is a gardener as well as a life coach and has combined these two passions in her program –  Grow Your Own Way Wellness Journey. The program is designed for a group and brings together nature and mindfulness in a beautiful setting. These two additions are the beginning of our Community Education wellness series. 
Question 2: What can people hope to gain when participating in these workshops?
With our fast paced lives and eyes glued to our screens the idea of slowing down and reducing stress can seem impossible. We aim to help participants slow down and experience the healing benefits of the Gardens. Practices like forest bathing will introduce new ways of interacting with nature allowing them to tap into the diverse and significant associated health benefits. A study reported on the Science Daily website shows that time spent in nature reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. Read the article here –
Forest Bathing is the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which means to “bathe in the atmosphere of the forest”. So no actual bathing is involved! It includes a slow, gentle walk usually less than 1km spread over 2 hours which makes it suitable for just about everyone. More about what to expect during a forest bathing experience can be found on the instructor’s website –
The wellness group with Marnie Dangerfield will introduce participants to various wellness practices including awareness/mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, kindness, journaling and intentional creativity. Those who attend regularly will have the opportunity to develop new wellness habits, decrease stress and bring more joy into their lives. An added benefit is meeting people with similar goals and interests and building community.
Question 3: What makes the Gardens at HCP a suitable place for these types of workshops?
We have the perfect setting at the Gardens for experiencing nature. Gentle pathways wind their way through fragrant beds buzzing with bees. Beautiful water features, ponds and streams provide  background music for calm contemplation. Our native plant gardens offer wilder areas to explore. Participants can observe the seasonal patterns of the wildlife and flora from several comfortable resting spots in the Gardens.Those who wish to prolong their experience can stop by Charlotte and the Quail cafe for a healthy snack or refreshing tea. We hope that many long-term friendships develop from these classes.
Question 4: What other new workshops are you bringing to HCP this fall and winter? Any highlights?
For those who would like to continue with the theme of health, the Herbal Tincture Making Workshop with Lily Fawn is on October 19. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the healing properties of herbs and make a tincture to take home with them.
Art is another great way to relax and get creative. Local artist Rose Cowles will be teaching two weekend workshops this Winter. The first workshop (October 26 & 27) is titled “Abundance” where participants will be exploring the theme of gratitude. The second workshop (November 30 & December 1) is titled “Land and Sea” and explores the theme of travel. Rose’s playful guidance will encourage participants to get messy and create something beautiful.
I will also mention our wreath making classes. These are a great way for friends and families to slow down and enjoy some creative time together away during the busy holiday season.
Question 5: What feedback have you gotten back about CE and the benefits people have found from it? Why do people take the classes?
The obvious answer is that people love to learn. More often when talking to participants I hear that they seek out the sense of community that the Gardens provide. They get inspired and encouraged to start their own creative projects. Participants return for classes again and again. A relationship develops between themselves and the Gardens and they keep returning for another dose of inspiration. We want to encourage their desire to learn and hope to find more avenues to provide what they need.