Creative Genius: Stephanie Rose of Garden Therapy

Gardening helped this blogger heal from a debilitating illness. Now she's on a mission to help others live a better life through plants.

Stephanie Rose is the founder and creator of the popular website and blog, Garden Therapy, and award-winning author of Garden Made and Make & Give Home Apothecary. She shares her garden knowledge, delicious recipes, natural beauty projects and DIY garden crafts from her small but mighty garden in Vancouver, encouraging readers to get outside and experience the wonderful benefits of gardening.

On your blog, you tell an amazing story of how you overcame a debilitating illness through gardening. What made you decide to try gardening to help you heal?

I started gardening as a way to recover from a severe illness that took me by surprise. I was working, going along with my normal day-to-day activities. One day I got a headache, and I was in bed for two years from that. It took 10 years of recovery before I could get to the point where I was working again.

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

After the first year and a half of being in bed, I started to wake up. I couldn't do much, so I ventured out my front door. I went outside and I scratched in the soil a little bit, and thought, this is how I'm going to recover. I'm going to garden and transform my yard into an oasis. I started with just five minutes a week. It was exhausting, and that's the most I could do. I moved up to five minutes a day, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, until five years later, I completely transformed the yard.

After that whole experience, I signed up to be a Master Gardener, because Master Gardener volunteers are great advocates for teaching healthy gardening education and practices in the community. I did my Master Gardener's Program and then started volunteering with a school-to-farm program that brought inner city kids to a farm. I taught them about how to grow and prepare their own vegetables from scratch for an entire school year. I then started blogging as a way to connect with others and share my experiences. That's how I started Garden Therapy.

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

Describe your garden.

I'm right in the city, so I'm on a small standard lot in a house that's 100 years old. I have sectioned off the garden into smaller theme gardens. My mother calls it a jewel box garden because I packed so many small things into the space, and each one of them is a treasure. My front yard garden is very small, but it's full of beautiful shade plants that are very west coast-themed and look great year round, especially in my climate.

In the backyard, I've got a really cool kitchen garden that is growing tons of your standard herbs. And then crazy stuff like a Yuzu tree, which is a temperate Japanese citrus — the only kind of citrus we could grow here. Then I have a kid's garden in different garden beds. The play garden has hopscotch stepping stones going through it and a stump for kids to sit on, and have a little tea party, and a little whimsical chandelier. That leads to my raised vegetable garden, which is about 14 to 20 feet long cedar beds that are propped up with braces and copper wire.

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

What are your top plants to grow and why?

Lavender for culinary and home apothecary uses, calendula for healing salves, infused oil for plant-based skincare recipes and for vegetable garden pest control. Rosemary and sage for their beauty and longevity in the garden (and the fact that I can harvest them all winter for recipes), ground cherries because of their flavor (butterscotch pineapple) and how fun they are to harvest (collecting the papery husks from under the plants is like an Easter Egg Hunt) and alliums because they are just about the most fun flower out there. They have great pompom or starburst shaped blooms that dry into seed heads that you can use for crafts or for decorating. Plus, all of my favorites are also the favorites of pollinators so they serve multiple purposes.

What are some easy-to-grow plants that have the best healing properties?

Lavender, calendula and roses. Lavender is not only used in aromatherapy for relaxation, for serenity and to help you sleep, but it's also a really powerful antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial herb. Calendula helps the skin repair and is great in natural cosmetics.

Rose is my new absolute favorite botanical for skin care. It makes a huge transformation in your skin. Rose hips are full of vitamin C and absolutely wonderful for your health. You can extract the rose petals into an oil and use that oil to make soaps and lotions, and put it on your skin to help decrease wrinkles and repair the skin. It's very calming and soothing.

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

What are your favorite types of crafts to do?

Anything with plants! In the spring and summer, I make interesting and unexpected containers or hanging baskets like a living strawberry wreath, a straw bag planted with annuals, or a succulent birdcage hanging basket. The rest of the year, I make plant-based beauty products like homemade soap, lotion, scrubs, bath teas and lip balms. It's fun to harvest botanicals from the garden to stock my home apothecary. I can then use infused oils and dried herbs throughout the year to make a ton of recipes for my family and to give as gifts.

What can fans expect from Garden Therapy in the future?

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

Last year we did a reader survey to find out what our fans wanted to see more of, and the overwhelming response was to plant as therapy. As a result, we changed the focus from DIY crafts and projects to better living through plants. We still do a ton of crafts and projects, but they all focus on the theme of plants as a tool to grow and transform your life. As part of this, I also launched The Garden Therapy Seed collection this year, a set of eight DIY gardening kits that I've put together with GardenTrends.com. Each kit comes with a handpicked selection of seeds plus at least one bonus item to bring the Garden Therapy home! The eight kits follow garden themes that are important to Garden Therapy and popular with gardeners and non-gardeners today: Indoor Herbs, Natural Beauty, Sprouts, Patio Pollinator, Superfoods, Edible Flowers, Ornamental Edibles, and Kids' Gardening. All of these have my absolute favorite seeds to grow, plus fun extras like a Roo Apron or Bug Hotel! Exclusively available at GardenTrends.

Photo by: Stephanie Rose

Stephanie Rose

I also have a new book called Make & Give Home Apothecary–Easy Ideas for Making & Packaging Bath Bombs, Salts, Scrubs & More. The book is all about using garden-fresh botanicals and herbs to craft up beautiful plant-based bath and skincare products at home. I used ingredients grown and harvested from my garden and all of the supplies from my home apothecary. The book features 12 easy-to-make projects plus gorgeous ways to package the projects to give as gifts.

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