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

2017 Winter Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note: New HT Book!

By: Rebecca Haller, HTM

rhaller (1)We are pleased to announce the release of the second edition of Horticultural Therapy Methods by CRC Press (of Taylor and Francis). With a slightly revised title, the new book offers revised chapters throughout and additional content over the first edition. The new title is Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Programs, Second Edition.

Of particular interest are new sections on session planning and an extensive appendix on “Goals, Activities, and Measurement”.  The chapter on session planning guides students and practitioners in the creation and deliverance of thoughtful and successful therapeutic sessions that utilize horticultural therapy with program participants. The appendix provides numerous examples of goals that may be addressed for an array of participants in various types of HT programs, along with horticulture activities and potential measurement/documentation strategies that may be suitable for each situationbookcover. They are intended to provide examples to be used directly as well as to illustrate how the three elements (SMART goals, activity selection, and measurement) relate closely in program and treatment planning.

I am looking forward to having this resource for future classes at the Institute, and believe that it will result in further professional advancement of the practice of HT.

Due to the revised and new content, I think you will want this book – even if you have the first edition. Thanks to all who contributed to its writing and production.

Click here to order the book.


Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice:Growing a Healing Environment

By Donald Frisch, HTR

The Covering House provides refuge and restoratDonald Frischion, using the least restrictive environment, for sexually exploited and trafficked children and teens. In order to begin the restoration of their clients the Covering House employs various forms of therapy, one of which is a horticultural therapy program on the grounds of their long term therapeutic home. The population served at this home are girls between the ages of 13-17 years old. As in many group therapeutic settings, the needs of the individuals and the group encompass a wide range of goals and therapeutic modalities. It would be a long read to cover all the ways the garden has been used to assist with goals, and in the interest of confidentiality for the girls I would prefer not to get too specific, but I would like to touch on three general goals (in no particular order) and the ways we attempt to use the gardens to help facilitate the girl’s therapy.

Giving them something of their own:

In some cases, a girl may not have many things of her own when coming to the house. In addition to a few community beds in the garden, each girl is given a planting bed of her own. Within this planting space she gets a bit of independence in maintenance, weeding, etc… In most cases, depending on timing of when the girl arrives at the house, she will get to choose where the plants are located within her bed. It is the hope that having a space of her own will give a feeling of connection to the house and program and give a place for the girl to nurture or contribute to something while she is being nurtured. Having a growing space of their own also allows the therapist a place to work towards other goals such as taking responsibility, improving reading and writing abilities, etc…

Learning to make choices in their lives:

donald frisch 2It’s possible in some cases of sex trafficking, that the girls may be coming from a situation where making independent choices could be frowned upon or even dangerous. Or maybe confidence in one’s own choices was never supported by a parental figure or guardian. There may be a hesitancy by some to make decisions. There are many choices and decisions that must be made year-round in a garden. Choices such as how far apart to plant each plant, when to water, how much to water, etc… And there is a lot of information that can be learned and brought into the conversation to help the girls make choices, such as plant growth spread, temperature/rain amounts/weather reports, etc… We can use the garden to show effective decision making processes and help them build confidence in their ability to make choices. Watching them learn the growth habits/needs of a coleus, giving them the choice of where to plant it based on what they learned, and seeing the results (good or not so good) of those choices goes a long way in building confidence when future decisions need to be made.

Learning to work with others as a team:

donald frisch 3In some cases of sex trafficking a girl may be surrounded by many people, but really be in a situation of learning to rely on herself, to survive on her own. Learning to trust or work with others as a team, for instance future school projects or employment, may not feel safe or comfortable for some of the girls. Working together with others is a desirable skill set to have in the workforce. Taking care of a garden requires a lot of coordination and teamwork. Things such as adding compost or soil to the beds, mulching, weeding, watering, and the list goes on and on, gives us a chance to have the girls work together towards one common goal. It gives them the opportunity to learn to except and feel comfortable with others assisting them.

As you can see with just a few examples, the therapeutic possibilities of using a garden in this setting are numerous. The great thing about nature and gardening is that they are always changing and adapting, but in many cases still thriving. That is one of the lasting messages I hope the girls get from the garden; things might not always go as planned but they can still keep growing.

Donald Frisch HTR, is a past graduate of HTI and the supervisor of horticultural therapy at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Fundamentals of HT class Fall 2017

Oct. 19-22, 2017 Deadline: Sept. 19
Anchor Center for Blind Children
Denver, Colorado

Nov. 2-5, 2017 Deadline: Oct. 2
Skyland Trail
Atlanta, Georgia

Nov. 16-19, 2017 Deadline: Oct. 16
Perkins School for the Blind
Watertown, Massachusetts

To enroll in a class go to

Horticultural Therapy Program Profile:
Abe’s Garden serving those with Alzheimer’s

By Debra Edwards, HTR

Summer 1

Debra Edwards, far left with residents of Abe’s Garden.

Abe’s Garden is a Nashville, Tennessee based alzheimer’s and memory care center of excellence that provides residential and day/evening care for individuals with alzheimer’s and related dementia (ADRD). Abe’s Garden opened in September 2015 with interior and exterior spaces intentionally designed to foster engagement, movement, and supported independence.

The campus features three connected households where 42 residents live in 38 private suites and two dual occupancy suites.  Each household features a fireplace and an open kitchen that fosters resident involvement in food preparation and table setting, as well as allowing those living and visiting there to enjoy the smells of freshly baked dinner rolls, cakes, cookies, and pies. The household themes and designs – Arts & Lifelong Learning, Music & Movement and Connection to Nature were selected to support related engagement initiatives and the organizational philosophy of focusing on remaining capabilities, as opposed to cognitive and physical losses resulting from ADRD.


A resident at Abe's Garden works on a flower arrangement.

A resident at Abe’s Garden works on a flower arrangement.

The respective households include a natural and artificially well-lit art studio, a conservatory, and a large open area with wood acoustical ceiling for musical performances and vinyl wood flooring for dancing. In addition, there is a large room with ample windows and sunlight that is used for The Club day/evening program, group presentations, family events, and staff training.

The Abe’s Garden approach encourages health and engagement throughout all stages of dementia.  Person-centered engagement, with multiple simultaneous options, is a hallmark of daily life on the campus. Interests and capabilities are assessed prior to admission, and quarterly throughout the time living or participating in programs on the campus. This allows life engagement coordinators to incorporate personal interests and capabilities into daily opportunities. Examples include history, science, biography, exercise, art, and literature classes; community service and entertainment committees; and gardening, culinary and book clubs.

Further, residents and program participants with a higher level of cognitive function are invited to participate in discovery level engagement opportunities including reading and brain challenge activities and a horticultural science & nature lab.  Those with mid-level physical and cognitive function, are invited to participate in vitality engagement opportunities.  Vitality initiatives include travel or animal slideshows, movement and gentle exercise, and discussion groups. Residents in the final stages of cognitive and physical decline, who are easily over-stimulated or unable to engage with large groups of people are invited to participate in serenity engagement. These are small group or one-on-one initiatives incorporating touch, fragrance (a sprig of fresh rosemary or other herb), music, and visually pleasing photos.

Families and friends are encouraged to visit the campus and participate in the individualized engagement opportunities. The onsite, full-time licensed clinical social worker supports their evolving needs as well as relationships with each other families, creating a true sense of community.

There are also many non-traditional residents at Abe’s Garden. Sylvester the cat and Brady the blue heeler mix are the community’s first feline and canine residents, aiding residents and day/evening care program participants in their transition from home to their new community, and providing pet lovers the purposeful tasks of feeding, walking or otherwise caring for the animals.  An aviary in the Connection to Nature household is home to numerous finches and canaries, and a cockatiel named Allison lives in the Arts & Lifelong Learning household.  Adjacent to the art studio is a large aquarium where residents enjoy viewing a variety of colorful fish.

Edwards 1The conservatory, with numerous greenhouse features, in the Connection to Nature household supports year-round, indoor HT.  There, I assist residents and Club members with transplanting houseplants, starting seeds in different media, rooted cuttings, harvesting seeds, and creating flower arrangements.  “This is fun!” and “That was easy!” are frequent comments stated with joy and surprise.

Residents also have plants in their suites. In addition to living beauty, their care provides a sense of responsibility, which is rare in long-term care environments.  Additionally, when they invite me to their suite to check the moisture level of their spathophyllum, see an orchid in bloom, or place a Schefflera into the correct level of light, it fosters a unique personal connection.

Beyond the conservatory, other engagement areas, and several of the resident suites is an intentionally designed courtyard. It includes elements for way finding; and a lawn space for picnics, putting, throwing football, and group exercise. There is a large outdoor grill, nature discovery area for visiting children to climb on boulders and a felled tree, a fireplace, covered and uncovered seating, bird feeders, a fountain with lilies, and numerous mosaics and sculptures by local artist Sherri Warner Hunter commissioned by the organization in recognition of contributors.

Courtyard HT activity areas include multiple ground beds for flowers and native plants, a vegetable plot, and four various sized raised beds to accommodate different types of plants and a variety of physical capabilities. In addition to the raised beds, seated gardening is also enjoyed at the herb garden wall. To support the very popular watering of vegetables and flowers, templates demonstrating the use of the water valves are placed beside them.

In the spring, the courtyard is a lovely, safe area for residents to accompany me on a nature walk. During the walk, we discuss the perennials emerging from dormancy or the vegetables we anticipate planting in warmer months.  The mention of peonies, daffodils or hydrangeas sparks memories of rural childhood homes or helping their mother in the flower garden.

Edwards 3In addition to the residents’ joy I witness in the sharing of such memories, I have seen reduced anxiety, exit-seeking behaviors, and depression as a result of active involvement in planting herbs and flowers in the herb garden, and planting peppers, strawberries, garlic, onions, leafy greens, cabbage, squash and cucumbers in the raised beds. I am proud to say that on multiple occasions the culinary club has enjoyed a walk in the courtyard to harvest the necessary ingredients for a morning or afternoon treat they make and share with the community.

A program staple is flower arranging, which occurs twice a week.  This initiative engages Abe’s Garden Club members, residents and the larger community, by using flowers donated from local stores and delivered to the campus by dedicated volunteers. Flower arranging is enjoyed by individuals at nearly all cognitive and physical levels. Participants choose from an assortment of vases, choose the scent or color of flower they enjoy, and arrange flowers applying their unique aesthetic. Some participants work independently, while some require step-by-step instruction.  The latter provides more able participants the opportunity to assist those in need of cuing, while the individual receiving assistance learns a new skill. For people in the most advanced stages, holding, smelling or touching a soft flower can add pleasure and engaged stimulation to their day.

The open design of the conservatory, as well as a welcoming approach to this and other group initiatives, accommodates the coming and going of those involved as their interest is piqued or wanes.  In the following days, they share the pride resulting from the beautiful arrangements brightening community shelves, counters, and dining tables.

My approach to engagement at Abe’s Garden is to foster failure free initiatives in supported environments.  The goal is health and quality of life, without focus on perfection or anticipated outcomes; and the results are a sense of purpose and pride in their gardening accomplishments, as well as the very essential human need of helping others.

Abe’s Garden’s fledgling HT program began in March of 2016 with a charitable gift that underwrote my hiring and start-up supplies. Today, it is growing and adapting based on the interests and ability levels of those who choose to participate.

Debra Edwards, HTR, BLA, is a graduate of HTI, a registered horticultural therapist, and life engagement coordinator at Abe’s Garden.

HTI News: HTI Director at International Symposium

Presenters: Conrad Neuberger; Rebecca Haller, HTM; Norman Goodyear; Diane Relf's husband Dave; Diane Relf, HTR

Presenters: Conrad Neuberger; Rebecca Haller, HTM; Norman Goodyear; Diane Relf’s husband Dave; Diane Relf, HTR

HTI director, Rebecca Haller, HTM recently presented at the International People Plant Symposium 2016 held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The topic, “Plants, Culture and Healthy Communities” brought together professionals from around the world to South America. “It was great to hear and contribute to the latest research in this area and explore a variety of collaborations with others,” said Haller. She was one of several AHTA members who presented at the symposium and said, “I wanted to contribute to the body of knowledge and explore what students do with the HT training they receive at the Horticultural Therapy Institute.” Haller presented the paper, “Impact of HT Certificate Program on Students and their Professional Activity.”


Haller noted that some of the take-a ways from the gathering were the inter-continental discussions about the definition of horticultural therapy as well as discussion regarding the different levels of evidence-based practice. The proceedings from the symposium will be printed at a later date in the publication Acta Horticulturae.

HTI Kudos:

Congratulations to HTI student Jan Lane, HTR who recently received her HT credentials. She is currently volunteering with Melwood, conducting long-range planning and grant writing as well as providing speaking engagements about horticultural therapy.
Far right, HTI student Jessica Morgan

Far right, HTI student Jessica Morgan

Congratulations as well to HTI graduate Jessica Morgan who will also graduate from Colorado State University in May and move towards professional registration. She is currently interning at Loveland Youth Gardeners and developing and delivering a full HT program curriculum with activities, objectives, goals, and evaluation and assessment forms for at risk youth and juvenile offenders on probation. She will also be working as the HT at Larimer County Community Corrections this summer to facilitate a proposed therapeutic garden and sustainable horticultural therapy program for the facility and inmates there.



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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