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Healthcare Hero: Diana Sette

July 6, 2021
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Welcome back to Healthcare Heroes! This month, we interviewed Diana Sette, who is the Horticulturist at Angie’s Garden at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. She is also a certified Ecotherapy Facilitator, and incorporates this into her practice. While spending time outdoors or at the garden at camp, campers experience the health benefits of being in nature that Diana describes below. Keep reading to learn more!

For those who may not know, can you give a quick overview of Angie’s Garden?
Angie’s Garden is a beautiful 7,500 square-foot rooftop healing garden atop University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. It is a place where patients and families can reconnect in Nature, and take a break from the clinical environment without leaving the facility. There are many flowers, lush greenery, a delightful fairy garden, interesting kaleidoscope, and observatory lookout with binoculars. Complementing the outdoor garden space is a plant-filled Sky Lounge & Horticultural Therapy Suite which serves as a peaceful sanctuary for watching rainy days, playing games, or snowy plays. The rooftop is also a place where patients can engage in various therapeutic modalities including horticultural therapy, music therapy, massage therapy, and art therapy, among others.

What programming does Angie’s Garden offer?
In addition to the self-guided strolls and scavenger hunts through the garden, we offer seed planting, transplanting, flower bouquet arranging, nature treasure gathering, fairy garden play, flower pressing, dried flower art making, and many different sensory experiences that engage taste, touch, smell, and hear, among many other experiences. Due to COVID precautions, we are not currently offering any group sessions, but hope to again in the near future.

Can you describe ecotherapy and how you incorporate it into your practice as a horticulturist?
Ecotherapy is based on the idea that humans are not only a part of Nature, but are Nature, and therapeutic benefits are gained while engaging with Nature. Much of the therapeutic benefits from the garden can come from simply breathing fresh air, absorbing the sunlight and seeing the sky, listening to the birds’ songs, and admiring the rainbow of colors the garden has to offer. In addition to that, I offer horticultural therapy activities where I help to facilitate a connection with Nature in a therapeutic way through an active process that works towards and considers the visitors’ healing goals as communicated in a treatment plan or more informally. As a horticulturalist, I am regularly incorporating plants into the garden design and use, whether outdoor or indoor, that can have special uses therapeutically. For example, they may have a strong fragrance, a unique feature, an attractive texture or an interesting botanical story. There are many ways in which people are interested in engaging with plants, whether it’s a tasty tomato, fragrant lavender stem, or a sprawling sedum. My role is to help connect people with plants and Nature in however they are drawn, and the result may be a decrease in anxiety, depression, pain or fear, and an increase in hopefulness, joy, sense of safety and comfort.

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"I love so many things about Angie’s Garden, from the colorful flowers, and enchanting magical spaces like the fairy garden nook."

What health benefits come from gardening or spending time in nature?
There is significant research to show that spending time in Nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduces nervous system arousal, enhances immune system function, increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety, improves mood. ADHD and aggression lessen in Nature, and help speed the rate of healing. Connecting with Nature also can reduce feelings of isolation, promote calm, and lift mood among patients. Being immersed in Nature also reminds us of the cycles of Life, and can be incredibly supportive as we are in bereavement, or facing significant transformations in our lives that test our resilience and spirituality.

Most commonly known is the benefit of simply the benefit of breathing in fresh oxygen, and taking in a healthy dose of sunny Vitamin D! We consider all the benefits to be from our greatest vitamin, Vitamin N, for Nature! Everyone needs a daily dose of Vitamin N.

What is your favorite thing about Angie’s Garden?
I love so many things about Angie’s Garden, from the colorful flowers, and enchanting magical spaces like the fairy garden nook. I love the jungle feeling of the indoor horticultural therapy suite and lounge (We are continuing to introduce new plants to our ecosystem all the time!). I also love to wonder at how such a beautiful array of monarch and tiger swallowtail butterflies, and an array of bumble and honey bees, dragonflies and hummingbirds find their way to our garden way up on the 9th floor rooftop of the hospital. How do they know?! But I think my favorite thing overall is being able to witness time after time the ways in which visitors transform from the second they step off the elevator and walk into the space and out into the garden. Significant healing landmarks regularly occur in the garden that may not be able to happen on the medical units, and I regularly hear someone remark how a child or adolescent is a “completely different person” and “their spirit has returned” upon visiting the garden. This is what gives me hope every day, and affirms the power and magic of Nature.

If someone is interested in learning more, what should they do?
If someone is interested in learning more about Angie’s Garden, or Horticultural Therapy and Nature Therapy in general, they are welcome to reach out to me via email at to talk more. Thank you!

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