New OARDC Garden Will Help Study Links Between Plants and Health

Donor Bill Lemmon stands in the new Health and Wellness Garden at Secrest Arboretum. (Photo by Ken Chamberlain)

WOOSTER, Ohio – The Ohio State University’s Secrest Arboretum has many gardens, but its newest addition stands out for its therapeutic and research value.

Dedicated in mid-September, the Lemmon and Rice Health and Wellness Garden was designed to boost visitors’ sense of well-being and to provide opportunities for research into the impact gardens and nature have on human health.

Located on the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the 115-acre arboretum encompasses a variety of demonstration and research plantings that support the state’s horticulture industry and also provide spaces for community engagement and enjoyment.

OARDC is the research arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Secrest currently has many visitors who enjoy and use the arboretum as a part of their wellness program,” said Joe Cochran, Secrest’s interim director. “For example, one visitor recently told me that he had lost 36 pounds somewhere on the paths throughout the gardens — jokingly saying that if we found them, we did not need to return them. The new garden will provide even more opportunities to give visitors a sense of well-being.”

Secrest Arboretum partnered with Ohio State’s College of Nursing to come up with a concept for the garden, make decisions about its design elements, and to conduct future research projects.

“The Lemmon and Rice Health and Wellness Garden is one of the country’s few gardens designed around the concept of the pillars of wellness,” said Usha Menon, former professor and director of graduate nursing science programs in the College of Nursing. “We recommended following this concept because the pillars tie into how well a person feels overall.”

There are nine pillars of wellness: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, career, financial, creative, environmental and intellectual. The garden focuses on six of them: environmental, physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and social.

“There is little research conducted specifically on wellness gardens,” Menon said. “Given the formative nature of this research, the Lemmon and Rice Health and Wellness Garden will offer several research opportunities, including the influence on quality of life of community residents with or without a chronic illness, the influence on urban adolescents who may not have access to such a space regularly, and around specific components of the pillars of wellness — which has not been researched, either.”

The garden was constructed thanks to donations from Bill Lemmon, president and owner of development company Lemmon & Lemmon Inc., and Kevin Rice, vice president of Rice’s Nursery and Landscaping — both located in the Canton, Ohio, area. Rice also designed the garden.

“I’m an Ohio State graduate. My grandfather and father came from Wooster. This is something I wanted to do for the university,” Lemmon said about the garden. “I believe plants are very important in people’s health, and I hope this garden will be beneficial for people of all ages in the community as well as for research.”

While the field of wellness garden research is still in its infancy, several studies have shown the benefits of gardening, gardens and other outdoor spaces on health. For example:

  • Gardening 3-5 times a week has been found to be a good strategy to combat obesity and lower stress.
  • Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain taking part in horticultural therapy programs experience an improved ability to cope with chronic pain.
  • Children with attention deficit disorder who play in grassy, outdoor spaces have less severe symptoms than those who play in windowless, indoor settings.
  • Patients with clinical depression who participated in routine therapeutic gardening activities experienced a reduction of severity of depression and increased attentional capacity —benefits that lasted up to three months after the program ended.
  • Dementia patients who have access to gardens are less likely to display aggression or suffer injuries, and they display improved sleep patterns, balanced hormones and decreased agitation.

For Cochran, Secrest Arboretum is the perfect place to conduct new and innovative research into the benefits of garden and green spaces and further collaborations between Ohio State campuses and colleges, communities and other partners.

“I feel that this garden and the entire arboretum go hand in hand with The Ohio State University’s discovery theme of Health and Wellness,” Cochran said. “We are committed to helping people learn, explore, wonder and connect with the natural world and, in doing so, we hope that their lives become less stressful and that their overall wellness improves.”


CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Joe Cochran