Gardening Group Grows Together

By Brian Myers, Licensed Treatment Professional, Clinic at SaintA

There is a long history of gardening and farming at SaintA, dating back to well before it was known as St. Aemilian-Lakeside. I learned this through historical pictures and stories shared by colleagues who, this year, helped start a new Horticultural Therapy Group (or simply, a “Gardening Group.”)

Plant an Idea, Get a Garden

The garden began as a conversation and soon, a plot was identified in a back courtyard between the Capitol West Academy (CWA) cafeteria and the SaintA administration wing. Many of my colleagues shared in the daunting task of beginning a new garden and I am so grateful for the help.

Maintenance staff did the tilling, Youth Transitioning to Adulthood staff provided in-kind donations – and a lot of gardening tips – and executives from across the agency provided full support. Many others offered assistance and energy-enhancing excitement. Growing a garden was successfully accomplished in the true spirit of one-agency collaboration, where so many were willing to pitch in.

Pulling Weeds – Literally and Metaphorically

Brian Myers
Brian Myers
Our garden this year formed into a mother-and-son multi-family psychotherapy group, with additional family members invited through the Clinic at SaintA. We planted seeds, bulbs, and live plants, which were donated from Stein’s Garden and Home.

We pulled weeds – oh, so many weeds! And, one by one, we began to share things in our lives that we would like to pull out of our lives – or “weed out,” to keep with the metaphor.

Growing Relationships

The relationships we built felt intertwined, like the vines from the tomato, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and watermelon plants. There is nothing better than seeing a child’s eyes light up as they approach the garden to  find new things in bloom!

Our group bloomed, too – with pride, uplifted moods, decreased anxiety and increased regulatory capacities.

The Gardening Group moms were devoted and knowledgeable; I was honored they would share their ideas, excitement and plans for future gardening with the group. I was awed by their level of investment and didn’t anticipate just how much they would care for our community garden.

Time to Harvest – and Reseed

The moms also presented me with the wonderful idea of extending our summer garden group through the fall to see the full harvest of our efforts. We currently have mothers with their 10-11 year old sons who attend Capitol West Academy coming to tend to the garden. Often, younger siblings are in tow.

We welcome more participants of all ages! Our group is already planning for next year and we’d like to start planting in early spring.

SaintA and CWA families who would like to be part of our 2020 growing season can contact me at If you would like to learn about our outpatient mental health services for children, youth, families and adults, please contact us at 414.463.1880 or


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