Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra,
Program Manager, HT Institute

2016 Summer Newsletter

Horticultural Therapy is making an impact on people’s lives.
Read more about how it’s happening.

HTI Director’s Note: Develop a Team – Garden Care

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

Ah – spring! It is hard to ignore the amazing bursts of life and energy that arise this time of year. What a perfect season to find ways to bring that energy to your HT program by engaging in the gardening process fully. For those of you without a greenhouse growing space, you may have found that during the winter months your HT sessions revolved around plant “projects” and using plants preserved from the previous summer. These can be very effective, yet there is nothing like actual gardening for helping participants connect in many ways. Connecting with nature is enhanced, group and social interactions are encouraged, and feeling a part of the larger community may result. Active participation in the whole process – from planning, planting and tending – reaps wonderful benefits. Apply your skills in adaptation and modifications – be creative. Believe that participants can be part of every aspect of the spring awakening. Now is the time to focus the program on those activities that are real.

Horticultural therapists work in such assorted settings and program types. Who maintains the HT gardens, what horticultural tasks and activities are carried out in the program, how the program and sessions are structured, and the overall purpose or outcomes to achieve, vary considerably. In some organizations, horticultural therapy may seem to operate separately, and may not be directly connected to the rest of the care team. Even so, you need several teams to optimize success for the people you serve in the program. Here are a few considerations for building one of your teams.

Since summer is here, let’s look first at outdoor garden care. Who is responsible for each and every component – purchasing plants and other supplies, watering, weeding, pruning, deadheading, fertilizing, pest and disease management, composting, debris removal, lawn care, maintenance of pathways, filling and cleaning water features, and replanting throughout the summer. As the horticultural therapist, frequently, you are ultimately responsible for all of this. At the very least, it is important that someone carefully coordinates the team’s efforts. Remember that a well-cared-for garden is motivating for participants and is a showcase for the HT program and the organization.

Working with clients as part of the garden team is important.

Working with clients as part of the garden team is important.

The program participants are the most important members of your garden care team. By engaging them in the various aspects of maintenance, the garden and its beauty and bounty become sources of pride and ownership. Participants grow into stewards of the land and plants. Still, it can take some creativity and patience to keep them engaged throughout the growing season. Once you do, the rewards are real. Don’t limit that engagement.

Of course, it is also important to be realistic in what can be done within the program itself. This is especially an issue for part-time programs. Who will water on days when there is no programming? Who will perform some of the more physically demanding tasks if the HT participants are weak or frail? How will it all get accomplished in a timely manner?

Think strategically. Who else needs to be on the team? Some programs rely greatly on trained volunteers to do much of the maintenance that cannot fit into HT programming. Are there staff or family members who love the garden and are willing to devote regularly scheduled time? Is there a need for a professional landscape crew to do some of the maintenance? If so, might there be another HT program in your community that has a vocational focus. Perhaps they could be hired to perform routine tasks. Could program participants practice independent work skills by caring for the garden on the weekends?

Maintaining the garden space throughout the summer

Maintaining the garden space throughout the summer

Would periodic workdays of volunteers serve a useful purpose to complete the larger projects. Businesses may be willing to have their employees give some time each year, particularly if your organization is a non-profit. Are there maintenance or grounds keepers in your organization? If so, they most definitely are part of the team! Communication is key to working together – coordinating timing and cleanup, so a bed is not watered just before you plan to have a group dig in that space for example.

Plan for garden maintenance up front to be sure that what is planted thrives and is beautiful. For success, create your garden care team as the garden is planned – before it is planted. Be creative and also temper spring enthusiasm with the realities of cultivation. And don’t forget to thank all the team members!


 Fall Fundamentals of HT classes enrolling now:

HTI students in an advanced class in North Carolina

HTI students in an advanced class in North Carolina

Join a community of learners and embark on your own horticultural therapy journey, by earning an HT certificate. Enroll today in one of the three Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes offered across the country in Colorado, Wisconsin and California. This class is offered for academic credit and only offered in the fall.

The one year AHTA  accredited program’s format allows students to live anywhere and come together for only four classes –about once a semester, while completing work back home. Join the leaders in Horticultural Therapy education and learn how to combine a passion for gardening and helping people through the innovative field of horticultural therapy. The Institute has offered HT classes for nearly 15 years and the faculty is experienced as practitioners as well as instructors.

Our mission is to provide education and training in HT to those new to, or experienced with, the practice of using gardening and plants to improve the lives of others.  To enroll in a class or for questions contact 303-388-0500 or [email protected] The remaining three classes in the certificate series will be held in 2017 in Colorado and California. For a full class schedule go to

Oct. 13-16, 2016 Deadline: Sept. 13, 2016
Anchor Center for Blind Children
Denver, Colorado

Nov. 3-6, 2016 Deadline: Oct. 1, 2016
University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

Nov. 17-20, 2016 Deadline: Oct. 17, 2016
Elkus Ranch
Half Moon Bay, California

Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice: Cultural Awareness

By Green Mann

(Editors note: Cordilleras Mental All PagesHealth Center is the site of a field trip in the Fundamentals of HT class this fall in Northern California)

The residential mental health center where I work is blessed with good weather, great staff and supportive administration.  The garden area hosts a number of garden groups and 1:1 client programs.  Earlier this year during our horticultural therapy staff meeting, I suggested that we plant the 3 sisters this year: corn, bean and squash.  Staff were intrigued, and administration wanted to include the cultural component.  One staff person attended an open powwow, learning the names of local tribes and some important history.  Another brought books about and by native peoples.  Another connected with a local tribes’ community outreach person to share our interest and ask about proceeding with honor and good intention.  We found traditional recipes and plant uses.  Residents were asked to share their knowledge and experiences.

Building hills for the 3 sisters garden

Building hills for the 3 sisters garden

The 3 sisters have a long history entwined with first peoples. One version relates that the 3 sister plantings began on the eastern seaboard and through trading with neighbors, the wisdom of interplanting this way passed north, south and west throughout this hemisphere.  The ground is thanked and honored, dent corn is planted when the soil is warm, half-vining bush beans are planted around the corn, then squash is seeded around the beans. Timing is important: from early soil preparation to allowing each seed time to grow 3”-6” tall before seeding the next plant.

The soil at our site is heavy and dense so we added rich compost to build low hills spaced 6′ apart, remembering to fork the first layer of compost with the soil for a plant root transition zone. Just as we clothe and protect ourselves, so we spread a thick straw mulch in-between the hills to conserve moisture and protect the soil.  Tradition honors the earth with gifts of fish, tobacco, and sage. In keeping with this intention, we included fish and kelp meal in the base of each hill.  We also talked about how feeding the soil biome is the basis of life and that as the plant roots reach down, there is a wealth of nutrition available to them.

Unlike sweet corn, which is harvested early while still tender, dent corn is grown to full maturity and is dried before grinding into cornmeal or cooking into soups. It also grows in beautiful colors and has been incorporated into jewelry, art, and seasonal decoration. Half-vining bush beans fix nitrogen in the soil and are supported by the corn stalks without overwhelming them. The beans are given time to completely ripen, then are dried for nourishment throughout the winter months. Squash plants shade the ground, helping keep the soil cool and moist. We chose a multi-hued dent corn, ‘Rattlesnake’ bush bean, and ‘Sugar Pie’ pumpkin. It is important to research varieties that are well suited to your local climate.

Late summer we will gather together to honor the earth’s bounty and how we help. As we plan, prepare, plant and tend these plants, there are rich comparisons to supportive community: how important each individual is to strengthen the collective whole and how we are more resilient with our support systems in place. We talk about allowing each day, each relationship and each process the time needed to grow and mature. We share stories from memories of gardening with relatives. We laugh and play while we work together. We revel in sunshine and feel deep gratitude for water.  As we tend the garden, we grow healthy connections to the earth, to each other, and to ourselves.

(Green Mann is the horticultural therapist at Cordilleras Mental Health Center in Redwood City, CA and a past HTI graduate)


HTI Program Profile: Rogers Memorial Hospital

By Melanie Hammer, HTA

(Editors note: Rogers Memorial Hospital is a field trip in the Madison, WI Fundamentals of HT class this fall).

Rogers Memorial Hospital has a long history of using the healing powers of the garden. From it’s very beginnings when the hospital grew most of its own food to the current expansion of therapeutic gardens and horticultural therapy programming with the hiring of an HT coordinator.  Rogers in an innovator when it comes to healthcare. A leader in comprehensive and effective behavioral health care for those suffering from mental illness Rogers treats children, teens and adults.

Located in southeast Wisconsin near Milwaukee, Rogers began in 1907 by a young psychiatrist, Dr Arthur Rogers who named it the Oconomowoc Health Resort.  Along with his wife Theresa, the Rogers’ wish was to plan the facility to make the buildings and environment as “home-like’ as possible.  Mrs. Rogers was not only an excellent business manager, but also a gifted landscaper.  She developed elaborate flower gardens and personally supervised the vegetable and fruit gardens.

Although the original gardens disappeared, 25 years ago, Rogers began to reestablish a garden area and named it after Theresa Rogers.  Rogers has grown into a world renowned behavioral healthcare system and today they are located in five states and serve over 700 patients a day through a continuum of services from outpatient, inpatient and residential facilities.

The multi disciplinary treatment approach included experiential therapy but not horticultural therapy.  In 2013, Rogers contracted with Melanie Hammer, HTA, a graduate of HTI, to increase staff uses of the gardens as well as develop a horticultural therapy program.

Many clinical staff were interested in learning more about the use of plants and nature in their work.  Staff were educated through in-services on the benefits between plants and people.  A one-day training at Chicago Botanical garden was offered as an introduction to using plants in therapy.  A job description was created for a Horticultural therapist and in 2015, Kelly Wang, also an HTI graduate joined the staff.

TRG Aerial shotIn 2014, plans began to develop for the first therapeutic garden designed specifically for the Children and Adolescent Center.  One of the main goals of this space was to include a greenhouse for year round programming. Rogers chose the Participatory Design Process used by Teresia Hazen, Coordinator of Therapeutic Gardens at Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon.  Hitchcock Design Group, Chicago was the landscape architect firm.  In the fall of 2015 the garden opened and a second therapeutic garden is opening this summer.  The new garden will serve the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Center, which is the world’s largest provider of OCD treatment.  This garden was designed by their staff and includes raised beds for horticultural therapy programming.   Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is used daily with this population and is an excellent opportunity for horticultural therapy.

Currently horticultural therapy is used in our Eating Disorders program-both in-patient and residential; Child and Adolescent Residential; Residential Mood Disorder Program all through the experiential therapy department.  As Rogers continues to move forward, additional staff who use plants in their work are the behavioral therapists who run the dialectical behavioral therapy for each patient.  This summer, plans are underway to hire another HTI graduate to become the horticultural therapy coordinator.

(Melanie Hammer is a consultant with Therapeutic Landscape by Design)

Kudos & Happenings with HTI Students

Student publishes case study

Like others in my HTI cohort, the thought of doing a case study as part of the horticultural therapy internship appeared daunting.  In reality, the opportunity to put what I had learned into action was a rewarding and memorable experience.

Last summer, I fulfilled my internship requirements at Catholic Charities Gribbin Center, Perry Hall, MD.  My supervisor, Suse Greenstone, HTR, identified Sara, an enthusiastic, determined young woman with cerebral palsy, for the case study.   Sara’s IPR goals included creating an herb garden and being more active in the community (not defined).

Although horticultural therapy has long history of use within the developmental disabilities population, a literature review revealed very little had been written about its use with individuals with cerebral palsy.   During the AHTA Conference in Portland, OR, I met Matt Wichrowski, Editor or the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture.  We talked about this lack of research and what other conditions might be similar and worth review for insight into the application of horticultural therapy (e.g. Parkinsons disease).

Ultimately however, Sara and I found ourselves in somewhat unexplored territory, but the lessons from HTI provided guidance.  Specifically, focus on independence, remain flexible during HT sessions, and of course, document, document, document! It was a memorable summer growing and harvesting herbs to make pesto and sachets.  Sara is now the proud owner of a small craft business: “Sassy Sara’s Sachets”, growing many of the ingredients in the Gribbin Center garden.

I’m pleased to share that the case study of our work together will be published in the Summer edition of the JTH.  Hopefully it will help and encourage others to incorporate HT into their work with individuals with cerebral palsy.

(By Jan Lane, HTR)

Second award received for Horticultural Initiate Program

Almost 7 years ago the HIP (Horticultural Initiative Program) was started at California State University Fresno as the basis for a Master’s thesis. Starting with meager beginnings of what could be, working in an unused field with very limited funding, I am pleased with the progress and momentum the program has taken.

Students at CSU Fresno

Students at CSU Fresno

After completing the certification at HTI and completing the Master’s degree based on the program and the use of horticulture with young adults with disabilities, HIP truly began to take shape. The local school district supporting the students noticed. In 2015 the parent program for which HIP is a vital part of won a Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association the school district offered a substantial monetary donation to keep HIP going. Raised bed planters were purchased and the garden finally had a permanent home. After the initial donation of several thousand they have again offered another donation to further improve the program and has committed to helping the program financially every semester with maintenance and support funds.

Currently, the program has between 10-12 students enrolled every semester as well as 6 Master Gardener volunteers who help the students maintain their gardens. It is truly an evolution that has exceeded any expectations. The results have been amazing and the district has noticed. More importantly the students who participate have grown and matured, made connections, developed relationships and done wonderful and amazing things in their life. Working in the garden is just one piece of their puzzle, but is definitely a magical piece.

(by Calliope Correia, Instructional Support Technician III,  Horticulture Greenhouses & Nursery, Department of Plant Science)


View the recording of a recent live webinar:

Topic: Entering the Profession of Horticultural Therapy

You will learn:

  • What is horticultural therapy?
  • Where is it practiced?
  • Who does it serve?
  • How can you receive training?

View the webinar here


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