Borrowing the Power of a Healing Garden

Owners allow nature lovers to rent organic farms or gardens by the hour.

Painting in the garden at Arts and Roots Garden
Painting at Arts and Roots Garden in North Inglewood, California.

Healing Gardens

Abhi Arora used to be in the tech field. Like so many people, he sat at a desk all day, staring at a screen.

“Due to the stress of always staying indoors and in front of a computer, I started getting anxiety issues,” he tells Treehugger. To recharge and rejuvenate, he visited a local garden in California and brought his colleagues along.

“I noticed the shift in my mood, emotions, and improvement in my mental health overall during each visit.”

Arora became friends and later business partners with the garden’s owner, farmer Rishi Kumar. Kumar studied computer science in college but became obsessed with plants and gardening. He now runs Sarvodaya Farms in Pomona, California. 

“Rishi and I met a veteran who was healing himself and his son through the power of gardens. It was then that I realized that we could help others feel the same connection to the healing power of gardens,” Arora says.

The two co-founded Healing Gardens, an online marketplace where people can lease their organic urban gardens or farms for use by the hour.

“I’ve always had a love for plants and wildlife, so with Healing Gardens we want to bring easy access to the wellness benefits of nature to our community and at the same time do our part in regenerating our planet,” Arora says.

Benefits of Gardens

Healing Gardens is based on the simple idea that most people enjoy being surrounded by plants and animals, the co-founders say.

“Our bodies and minds automatically respond with calm to the beauty and sensory immersion of a garden,” Kumar tells Treehugger.

"Gardeners have always known about the therapeutic value of the spaces they help create and tend, while science is just recently catching on to the value of gardens. The number one hobby of centenarians is gardening. After talking to dozens of gardeners, we found that the number one reason they garden is for the feeling of grounding and peace it gives them."

The gardens offer more than going to a public park or your own backyard, Kumar says. 

“A healing garden is a restorative outdoor space that has been specifically designed to steer the restless mind away from circling thoughts and towards the presence of the senses. Beautiful imagery, luscious smells, birdsongs, and more, gently invite the guest at a Healing Garden to presence."

In addition to offering private time for visitors to just spend time alone in the garden or at the farm, individual hosts may also offer events and activities like yoga classes, mediation sessions, and goat petting for kids. Reserving private time by the hour can range from $15 to $150 depending on group size and each event is priced differently.

“We love public parks and what they provide, but this is a totally different experience," Kumar says. "We hope that our work will encourage the development of healing gardens in public spaces in the future too.”

There are about 25 gardens available right now, all in the Los Angeles area, but the company is now accepting organic garden and farm host applications nationwide. They hope to be in all major cities by the end of the year.

Listings and bookings have increased during the pandemic, the co-founders say, since it’s an outdoor local outing where people can get away after being confined to their houses for so long. They recently had a customer propose to his fiance at one of the gardens.

Enjoying a Native Garden

Conejo Ridge healing garden
Conejo Ridge in Diamond Bar, California.

Healing Gardens

Cynthia Robin Smith opens up her garden in Diamond Bar, just east of Los Angeles, to visitors. Called Conejo Ridge, the garden is filled with plants and trees native to Southern California. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and quail often are spotted visiting wild sunflowers, sage, lilac, and buckwheat .

“My garden surprises and delights me daily, as I observe seasonal changes, the high biodiversity and the stunning artistry and beauty of it. Dozens of special and rare birds, butterflies live here. Even snails!” Smith tells Treehugger. 

“A native garden is all natural. There is minimal human input. My garden uses no fertilizer, pesticides, no mechanical irrigation and no tillage. The garden relies on natural rainfall for irrigation. Nature does most of the work. Overall, I experience a deep sense of contentment living here.”

Smith chose to open her garden to others so they could also experience those feelings.

“The goal of Conejo Ridge is to share and teach others that bringing nature home by planting a native garden, is one of the most powerful things humans can do to enrich their lives and save the planet,” she says.

“Visiting Conejo Ridge inspires and reconnects humans to Nature and life’s fullness. We hope many will consider our message of restoring Nature, one garden at a time.”

At her garden, Smith offers guided nature walks, bird and butterfly watching, and planting classes. Visitors can sign up for poetry readings, harp lessons, nature photography or art classes, or they can just spend a little alone time in nature.

In the end, Smith says, she feels the experience is different than just going to a park or being anywhere outside.

“All green spaces are not equal. A bona fide, intact ecosystem is unique and essential to life on the planet,” she says. “Our habitat garden is an intact ecosystem, including native fungi, lichen, snails, insects, pollinators, birds, and mammals all residing in a garden that provides food, shelter, water and a place to raise young,” she says.

“Conejo Ridge is a national certified wildlife habitat garden. Some of our species have been listed in the state  scientific database. We aim to reconnect human relationships to Nature, and are dedicated to mentoring environmental literacy and ecological integrity.”