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

2017 Fall Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note:
Please Support the Horticultural Therapy Institute
on Colorado Gives Day!

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

RLH headshot EDITED

Many of you are aware that the Horticultural Therapy Institute marked its 15-year anniversary this year. To a large extent, our success can be measured by the success and contributions of our past and present students.  We want to thank all of our students, faculty, volunteers, class site hosts, and donors for your continued support over the years.

While we’re proud that the field of horticultural therapy and HTI have made great strides in this time, much still needs to be done.  To that end and as part of HTI’s ongoing educational efforts, we have joined the Colorado Gives Program to help raise funds for horticultural therapy training and educational videos.

Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 5, 2017. On this day, thousands of people will come together to support Colorado nonprofits like ours. Colorado Gives Day, presented by Community First Foundation and FirstBank, is powered by, a year-round website featuring more than 2,000 nonprofits.

You can give as little as $10. When we receive your tax-deductible donation on Dec. 5, we will receive a portion of a special $1 million incentive fund. You can also schedule your donation early. If you can’t donate on Dec. 5, beginning on Nov.1, you can schedule your donation early so that HTI receives your contribution on Dec. 5. Every donation counts toward helping us reach our goal of $3,000. 

In addition to secure online donations, we accept personal checks. Checks can be mailed to: Horticultural Therapy Institute, P.O. Box 461189, Denver, CO 80246.

We hope you will consider a donation to HTI when you’re making your charitable contributions this year. You can count on us to put your donation to good use. Thank you!

Fall Fundamentals of HT class – Enroll Today

HT class at Anchor Center in Denver

The Denver class of Fundamentals of HT filled to capacity this fall, but a few spots remain in Watertown, MA. (Nov. 16-19, 2017) Enroll today at!
Join a community of learners and embark on your own horticultural therapy journey, by earning an HT certificate.

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 is celebrating it’s 15th year of offering HT classes 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 2018 in Colorado and North Carolina. For a full class schedule go to

Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice: The People-People Connection Is Key to Launching HT Nonprofit

By Rachel Cochran and Wendy Battaglia

Editors note: Students attending the Atlanta Fundamentals of HT class will have the opportunity to hear from Wendy and Rachel firsthand.

Veteran Service Day Fall Garden planted in Fall of 2016

Wendy and I met during the 2013-2014 Horticultural Therapy Institute (HTI) southeast training series and we both live in Atlanta. The training experience connected us both professionally and personally, and definitely ranks as an incredible, life-changing experience for both of us.  We completed our HT training in December of 2014 with ambitions of walking into the ideal HT job – decent pay, good benefits, inspiring work with wonderful people.  Some of these criteria were met for Wendy, as she successfully landed a 30-hour per week position as a horticultural specialist with the Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital for brain and spinal cord injury.  I, on the other hand, tried to do my own thing, as I maintained a grant-writer position at Georgia Tech, and embarked on my HT internship at Skyand Trail, an Atlanta-based mental health treatment center, with the amazing Libba Shortridge as my supervisor and mentor.

As my HT skills became more proficient and my confidence level grew, I felt compelled to branch out and try to start HT programs on my own, pretty much going door-to-door visiting human service organizations with some marketing materials in hand.  The organizations I approached focused on day programs for elders and adults with disabilities.  And with Wendy’s support and knowledge of the veteran population, together we approached several veteran’s organizations, including the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  And here is what we learned:

1) The staff and/or leadership of most of these organizations were not familiar with horticultural therapy; but were intrigued by the concept.

2) There was no funding available to start a HT program.

End of Story?  Nope.  While we could have been discouraged, Wendy and I actually viewed these hurdles as new doors for us to open.  We also realized quickly how few horticultural therapy programs existed in the Atlanta area and in the state of Georgia in comparison to some other more progressive states.  This situation helped us forge a vision of creating new horticultural therapy programs in the Atlanta area, and raising awareness on the benefits of HT and therapeutic gardening.

Rachel and I really got to know each other during the HT Management class held in Wilmington, NC. I was drawn to her because I really admired her spirit and her smarts. We didn’t live too far from each other in Atlanta and so we stayed in touch.  It took me a year to come up to speed and settle into my job as a horticultural specialist at Shepherd Center. One of Shepherd’s programs that drew me in was the SHARE military program for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and mild brain injury. I had been deeply moved by observing the benefits of HT for this population and how the purposefulness of gardening met their continued need to serve and be productive. With Rachel’s help, I wanted to coordinate a community garden service day with them. We contacted a locally-owned garden center that had some unused garden space behind the store the was offered to us.  In one afternoon, we turned an overgrown, weedy space into something really beautiful and the time shared together was inspiring.  Through this interaction we learned about the continuing needs of the veteran population and their desire to be productive and build community.  We reached out to local Veteran’s organizations and learned that some offered grants and some could provide donated materials and supplies.   We also used our garden center connection as a potential donator of plants for future projects. And we started keeping a list of all the people we met who could potentially one day serve as a resource, a bank of knowledge to help us somehow launch new horticultural therapy programs for organizations that had limited funding; ideally, a nonprofit organization that could raise the funds needed to start these new programs.

Wendy Battaglia with Rachel’s brother-in-law Ken Mitzel of Hobby Worm Farm, who provided worm castings for the Raising Expectations raised bed garden.

And so, with Wendy’s vast people skills and networking abilities, and my research and writing skills, step-by-step we kept putting the pieces of the nonprofit puzzle together. We both new that building a community of people interested in HT was an important piece of this puzzle, as we needed each other. We wanted our new nonprofit organization to be a connector of people wanting HT services to those people wanting to deliver HT services.  We reached out to everyone we knew in the Atlanta area that had their hand in some type of horticultural therapy or therapeutic gardening program and invited them to a HT meet up event.  Our HTI classmate, Fred Conrad, helped to organize this event through his position as community garden manager at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  Our event was successful, important, and we made great connections. We cannot stress enough how important it is to build community. Wendy has volunteered in her community for many years and many of her connections made have become so invaluable, as have my own, to this new business endeavor, from accountants, to lawyers, to graphic designers – these people are most likely in your circle too. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

In May of this year, Rachel and I officially incorporated Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance, a Georgia-based nonprofit corporation.  The organization’s mission is two-fold:

1) To serve as a resource to grow and sustain horticultural therapy and accessible gardening programs in the metro Atlanta area for the benefit of people with physical, mental, cognitive and emotional challenges.

2) To raise awareness of the value of horticultural therapy to improve lives.

Our first Trellis client, Tangee Allen, was the founder of the nonprofit Raising Expectations, that provides afterschool programming and mentoring for inner city, at-risk youth.  I (Wendy) met Tangee in my own neighborhood ten years ago while volunteering for the National Night Out back to school program for inner-city youth. Tangee and I lived close to each other and had stayed in touch over the years. She knew me as a passionate gardener and reached out to me when Raising Expectations moved to a new location with more greenspace.  She wanted to add a therapeutic garden for her students.  Who would have known that this connection formed all those years ago would land us our first client!  We learned so much with this first project, specifically how much time and effort it takes in the planning a simple garden of six raised beds, how the budget basically drives every decision; the importance of ordering materials correctly, checking calculations over and over again, how to coordinate volunteers and, especially making sure you invoice the client so you get paid!

Six beautiful cedar raised beds constructed for Raising Expectations during a volunteer workday in August 2017.

During one of the volunteer build days for the Raising Expectations garden, we met a guy who happened to have started a local public charter school.  He asked for our contact information because the school wanted to create a garden space that would focus on improving the student’s physical and mental well-being. Wendy and I found this potential project exciting, refreshing and perfectly aligned with HT concepts. We are currently working with this school on making their Peace Garden vision a reality.

The people connection has been so critical to getting this nonprofit up and running.  Do we have it all figured out? No, but we keep moving forward.  Our next huge step is to file the application for federal 501(c)(3) tax exempt status so we can write our own grants; and we will be calling a friend to walk us through this process.  The take home messages that Wendy and I want to share with you are summarized below:

  • Find someone you connect with who shares your passion. The prospect of starting a business on your own is daunting and overwhelming, but with a partner, it becomes much more doable.
  • Find your HT people, connect with those in your HT training classes, volunteer. Building these connections now will set you up for later success in your HT endeavors.
  • Like having a baby, there is no good time to start a business
  • There are many reputable organizations, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, that provides free online information on how to start a business or a nonprofit. Also check out local associations for nonprofits.
  • To find potential clients, start with friends and family, start with people you know who are employed by a human service organization. Or focus on solid, well-known national organizations such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  Our local YMCA has programming for adults with developmental disabilities.
  • We had very little financial reserves to launch this nonprofit and are currently doing everything ourselves, it would be helpful to have funds to hire professionals to help get the basics established, such as building a website, creating logos and other marketing materials, and writing a business plan.
  • Don’t fret about not making money early on; put in the extra hours, do a fantastic job, and start to make a name for yourself and your organization.
  • A seasoned nonprofit executive warned us that we will be overloaded with launching and running the nonprofit instead of doing what we love – being out in the garden and helping people. For now, his statement has been mostly accurate in these early stages of start-up. But in actuality we are doing everything, from creating the website, meeting potential clients, writing grants and proposals, designing gardens, and building raised beds. We believe that helping to start new HT programs for other organizations will be way more impactful than what Wendy and I can each do by ourselves.

It is our goal that Trellis Horticultural Therapy Alliance will be a resource for you or provide a model for setting up your own organization.  We believe that collaboration is key to making a large and lasting impact on HT as a practice and a profession. We are here to support you.  Please visit us at

Wendy and Rachel are both graduates of the Horticultural Therapy Institute.

HTI Program Profile:
N. Carolina Adult Day Center Fosters Enrichment

By: Beth Bruno, HTI Graduate

Horticultural therapist, Beth Bruno works with a client.

The Life Enrichment Center is an adult day care center in Cleveland County, North Carolina with two locations. 37 years ago, the center was started in a church Sunday school room with 2 participants 2 days a week. Today, the two centers in Kings Mountain and Shelby are open 5 days a week from 5:30AM – 6:00 PM and average 65-80 participants each center, per day. The participants at Life Enrichment have a variety of diagnoses including dementia, stroke, PTSD and traumatic brain injury as well as developmental and intellectual disabilities. We serve adults between the ages of 18 and 103.

Horticultural therapy was added to the daily programming in 2013 when Beth Bruno, a graduate of HTI, was hired as the full-time horticultural therapist.  When the program started the gardens at both centers were a blank canvas. Over time, improvements have been made to create therapeutic gardens that are conducive to structured activities as well as independent exploration. We have partnered with the local Boy Scout troop to make major improvements to our gardens at both locations. Accessible paths, a butterfly garden, raised beds and shade arbors have been added, as well as greenhouses at each location.

Each day, Beth plans activities and programs that focus on engaging participants in an activity that is familiar to them, or teach a new skill that will bring a sense of satisfaction. There are many opportunities for participants to get their hands in the soil and plant, weed, and harvest the fruits of their labors. With the use of adaptive tools, everyone, no matter what their physical challenges, is encouraged to participate. Beth conducts both group and individual sessions, depending on the needs of the participants. Programs include lots of nature study, focusing on the birds, butterflies and other creatures we see in our gardens. We also spend a lot of time in our kitchen where we bring the produce from our garden, cooking things that are familiar and also tasting new and unusual vegetables, including dandelions in the spring and Kousa dogwood fruits in the late summer. We harvest herbs to dry for making potpourri and make herbal cough drops in the winter. The greenhouses offer many opportunities to interact with plants in a fragrant, warm environment that is calming to many of our participants. We find the greenhouses to be especially effective in lowering agitation in our participants with dementia who tend to become anxious in the afternoon.

The main goals of our horticultural therapy program are to bring a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to our participants through seeing the results of their efforts in the garden and greenhouses, to enable them to engage in a meaningful activity that is familiar and comforting and to teach new skills that build self-esteem and a sense of purpose. We attempt daily, through the program, to reconnect people with the natural world in ways that are meaningful, uplifting and enjoyable. The smiles tell us we are on the right track.


HTI Kudos:

We want to recognize two Horticultural Therapy Institute graduates who are making a difference in their communities.

Jonathan Irish was a guest speaker at the 2016 Fundamentals of HT class in Wisconsin.

HTI graduate, Jonathan Irish, MA, LPC, HTR is the Coordinator of Horticultural Therapy at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, WI. In this position he wears many hats. He facilitates daily groups for various people who have eating disorders (both inpatient and residential levels of care). He also works collaboratively with the gardeners to develop and implement therapeutic gardens into all campus locations. Irish travels to the various programs around Wisconsin to help the experiential staff implement and conduct their own horticulture focused therapy groups. Most recently he headed up a collaborative design project for a program specific garden for Rogers residential level eating disorder program. He recently presented on this project at the AHTA conference this fall in Burlington, VT. He serves as a resource for staff who are interested in learning about, practicing, or running a horticultural therapy group. “My job is diverse, challenging, and rewarding in ways I could not have imagined prior to coming to Rogers.” Irish is also on the board of directors of the American Horticultural Therapy Association.


From HTI graduate, Catharine McCord: Landscapes can serve to restore agency to the lives of those suffering by offering choices so users can control how and where their time is spent in a space. Being able to make one’s own choices gives back a sense of control that is diminished or absent in the lives of people suffering from stress and trauma-related disorders. Horticultural therapy uses plant-based activities as part of the treatment process. This therapeutic modality is perceived as less threatening as it works through building a rapport between the therapist and the clients. Studies have shown that when performing nurturing plant-based activities, motivation to participate is increased, as is intellectual, social, emotional, and physical functioning.

To put these ideas into practice — namely, the application of neuroplasticity to landscape architecture — I designed a sensory garden and co-wrote a grant with the Vice President of Development for Sewall Child Development Center, an inclusive early childhood program that serves children of all backgrounds and abilities, including those with special needs. We received $75,000 from the Colorado Garden Foundation to build the sensory garden on 1/3 acre of their site. Construction is scheduled to begin this month.

The garden will be completed through community support with engagement from local landscape architecture and construction firms, horticultural therapists from Denver Botanic Gardens, the Congress Park Neighborhood Green Team, and the University of Colorado’s Urban Horticulture Club. These organizations will provide in-kind services, volunteer time, and plant materials divided from home gardens, making this a true community effort.

In May, Catharine McCord received a Master in Landscape Architecture from the University of Colorado, Denver. She recently presented her work at the 2017 Council for Educators in Landscape Architecture in Beijing, China.




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


Read the Fall newsletter

Read Here

Read the newest HTI blog

Read Here

Credits available through


Accredited through