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

2018 Fall Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note:
Engaging in Horticultural Therapy

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

With fall upon us the Horticultural Therapy Institute gears up for classes and winds down from the annual American Horticultural Therapy Association conference in Denver as well as hosting a new workshop. The theme “Planting with a Purpose: Engaging in Horticultural Therapy” provided a shot in the arm for inspiration and re-connection with colleagues and students. This conference was especially invigorating as all the HTI faculty joined together for the first time to present: “Roots: From Passion to Practice”. What a pleasure to be with such talented educators whose passion for horticultural therapy is contagious. In

HTI conference booth with Karen Kennedy, Rebecca Haller, Pam Catlin, Christine Capra and Jay Rice

addition, I’m proud of the 11 HTI graduates who also presented during the conference and so happy to see the more than 50 students who stopped by the HTI alumni party. Lastly, HTI offered the first ever, “Evidence-based Tools for Horticultural Therapy” workshop at the Denver Botanic Gardens prior to the conference. Instructors, Pam Catlin and Karen Kennedy led the group of 28 students (15 from a Hong Kong study group). HTI plans to continue the conversation about connecting research to practice and was proud to initiate the conversation through the workshop. We at HTI remain committed to supporting those who want to make a difference in the field of horticultural therapy and wish you a productive fall.

Enroll Today:
Deadlines now: Fundamentals of HT Class Fall 2018

For the second year, the Fundamentals of HT class is full in Denver. Space is still available in San Diego, CA and Half Moon Bay, CA. Learn how to combine a passion for gardening with professional human service through the innovative field of horticultural therapy. Join students from across the country to learn more by enrolling in  Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy this fall in one of three locations–including for the first time at the San Diego Botanic Garden!

At the non-profit Horticultural Therapy Institute (HTI), 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. For the past 16 years, our faculty has been dedicated to teaching best practices with passion, and our past students form a community of learners that become horticultural therapy practitioners in a variety of settings. Class cost for the 4-day intensive is $800 ($650 for full-time college students with proof of student status). The remaining three certificate classes will

Fundamentals of HT class at Elkus Ranch, 2016

be held  in Colorado and California and to complete a full certificate in HT plan to attend those additional classes.


Student can earn college credit from Colorado State University to meet the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) professional standards. Fall dates are as follows:

Nov. 15-18, 2018 Deadline: Oct. 15
San Diego Botanic Garden (New location!)
San Diego, California

Dec. 6-9, 2018 Deadline: Nov. 6
Elkus Ranch
Half Moon Bay, California

To enroll in a class, call 303-388-0500 or go to

Horticultural Therapy Program Profile:
Living Learning Landscape: A Teacher Training in Therapeutic Gardening

By: Amy Brightwood

 Information alone can never become knowledge, and knowledge never becomes wisdom without some kind of rooting in the good soil of experience.

James Raffan

When it came time for my long-term project while interning at the North Carolina Botanical Garden last fall, we looked to a nearby elementary school with whom we had a partnership. A pilot program of horticultural therapy for exceptional children (those who are differently abled) and for those with behavioral and family issues was proposed. We wanted to provide hands-on, tactile, sensory activities to help with focus, emotion regulation, teamwork, and many other goals. The mission of the horticultural therapy program was to provide a non-threatening environment for children to work on determined goals that promote psychological, physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.

The garden as classroom and/or therapeutic tool supports a variety of learning styles and abilities. Participants would gain a heightened sense of awareness of nature, seasons, how food is grown, and more through exploratory learning.  The program could be a replicable model for other interested schools to incorporate.

With an enthusiastic EC (Exceptional Children) teacher and school counselor, we began. The teacher and counselor set goals for their selected students and two HT groups were formed. Each group met weekly from September until mid December— one building a butterfly garden and the other a fall vegetable garden.

Goals for the students included:

  • increase cooperation/teamwork
  • decrease impulsivity
  • increase sense of pride and accomplishment
  • increase in leadership
  • increase in self-esteem
  • decrease in aggression
  • improved language and communication

Goal-based activities were incorporated with hands-on time in the garden.  From weeding, digging and composting to planting, watering and harvesting, the children gained horticulture skills, practiced cooperation, gained leadership skills, increased focus and built self-esteem.  They ate kale and lettuce right from garden!  They saw caterpillars build chrysalis and then emerge as butterflies ready to be released into the garden.  Awe and wonder, nature and cycles -all experienced in the outdoor classroom of the garden.

The results were evident.  The teacher and counselor reported increased cooperation and social skills, decreased impulsivity, increased focus, better ability to follow step-by-step instructions, and an increase in leadership, self-esteem and accomplishment.  EC teacher Annabelle Devonport said the students who built the butterfly garden “are still very proud of their achievement” and are “very keen to show their creation to visitors to the school.”

This program not only provided a therapeutic and educational experience, but also provided a new habitat for native wildlife.  Based on this project, Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation partnered with the NC Botanical Garden to fund a grant that would offer a teacher training in therapeutic gardening, along with education and plants to create pollinator friendly gardens.  And participants would be compensated for their training hours!  Knowing schools may not fund having a horticultural therapist onsite, this training series would help equip interested teachers, occupational therapists, and school counselors to start and/or maintain a therapeutic garden at their schools.

Last spring, nine teachers, occupational therapists, and counselors from five different elementary schools participated in the Living Learning Landscape training.  Not only did they learn how to implement a therapeutic garden and grow a pollinator garden, but also found peer support where they could share ideas to stay motivated and feel supported in their efforts.  Participants visited one another’s schools to see current garden layouts and brainstormed about funding as they shared PTA and grant opportunities with each other.  The grant allowed me to follow up by visiting each school to offer advice and/or hands-on assistance in implementing their garden spaces.  What a joy to see newly planted gardens as well as enhanced existing gardens.  Fifty plant species were planted throughout the school district and about that many more will be planted this fall as we complete our second round of trainings for nine new staff at five additional schools.

We are in the middle of our fall Living Learning Landscape training currently. As more schools grow gardens and enhance programming, I am hopeful that the desire for therapeutic gardens in schools will spread and that more and more staff will come on board as leaders.

Amy is a graduate of HTI and Founder of Common Ground garden in Chapel Hill, NC


Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice:
Working with those with Severe Mental Illness

By Amy Hollingshead, MA, LAC

Working in a community behavioral health setting (Southeastern Behavioral Health, Sioux Falls, SD) I have learned a few tricks for practice this past year working with individuals with severe mental illness, and often individuals who may have a co-occurring illness.  Listed below are tips I found helpful this year:

  • Make sure you have an alternative for group. This has been extremely important as this past year the entire month of June rained, and we were unable to go onsite for several weeks.
  • Make sure that you take time to just ‘be’ in the garden. It can be relaxing for members to just spend time ‘in’ the moment.
  • Remember that each individual works at their own pace and be respectful of this. Allow plenty of time for individuals to complete a task.
  • It’s important to record progress of the garden either by pictures of the garden, showing how different plants grow or using a measurement device or making a record of observation.
  • Be mindful of the group you are working with, if it is warm outside, make sure to take frequent breaks and stay in the shade as much as possible. Have cold water available.
  • Spend time reflecting on garden activity both prior to for instructions and following for feedback from members.
  • Allow for modifications of different tools for members. This allows for everyone to be able to complete the same task.
  • Have a variety of plants and interesting facts available in your ‘personal toolbox’. This information can be a great way to bridge the connection between plants and people and generate interest and curiosity in the garden.
  • Make sure to include a space on your referral form to include a spot for ways to manage symptoms. Occasionally participants can become triggered while in the garden and it is helpful to be prepared to know what a participant’s coping skills are to manage symptoms.

Hopefully you will find these tips helpful for your horticultural therapy groups!

Amy is an HTI graduate and the clubhouse coordinator at Southeaster Behavioral Health. She’s working towards professional registration.

Connecting to Nature as Seasons Change

By Laura DePrado, B.S. HTR

The end of summer is here.  Blooming flowers are tired and looking like they have thrown in the trowel.  Summer plants of annuals and perennials, withered, worn and fatigued, make way for the new harvest:  A cornucopia of mums, pansies, and fall annuals and perennials taking to the field.  We, the consumers, respond to the seasonal rhythms and cycles of plants, and plants in turn respond to our care.  The cooler evenings are a reminder the harvest is here.   We gather.  We harvest.  Our forefathers’ winter survival depended on the harvest for their survival.

Sensory-activity connects us to nature and living things seasonally. Photo by Laura DePrado

With shorter days and changing temperatures upon us, we will spend less time connecting to nature and outdoor gardening activities.  Research psychologists and professors at the University of Michigan, Rachel and Steven Kaplan are known for their research on the effect of nature on people’s relationships and health.  “In order for nature to best work its relaxing effect it is preferable for a place to have a high fascination value. An environment that automatically pulls the viewer into it is most beneficial,” according the research.  The Kaplan’s studies have found that office workers with a view of nature were happier and healthier at work.  Exposure to natural environments of the most mundane sort has proven to lift people’s moods and enhance their ability to mentally focus.  ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ has shaped how landscape and design professionals and others view humanity’s relationship with nature.

Here are some suggestions to get a dose of nature and combat fatigue.  Visit a local farmers market, greenhouse, garden center, or nursery, walk a local arboretum, county park, cut flowers and herbs before they finish for the season, and continue to buy during the winter months, and get a plant or two to purify the air in your home.  For a list based on Nasa Clean Air Study see  Sales of flowers, seeds and potted plants have increased since 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The recent surge coincides with the fact that some millennials, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000,” are delaying home ownership.

We interpret the world through our five senses: Sight, taste, touch, smell, and sound.  The brain processes information taken in through our sense organs of the eyes, tongue, nose, and the ears.  An individual’s sense awareness directly correlates to different parts of the brain.  Sense awareness can be compromised by physical, emotional, mental, cognitive functioning, brain injury, and medication.

Take the time this autumn and winter season to consider horticultural activities like flower arranging and or simply arranging stem cuttings from woodland shrubs and trees that capture your interest.  Plant bulbs in a container and force their bloom indoors.  If you own an indoor plant, wipe off the dust on the top of the leaves and underneath, while exploring the wonders of the plants unique characteristics.  Transplant an indoor houseplant that may have grown too big for the container that it is currently planted in.  Roots need space to grow and breathe.

Growing plants while growing minds and social skills. Photo by Laura DePrado

Discover and learn about horticultural therapy and sensory activities, healing gardens, therapeutic gardens, enabling gardens and “nature- poor” and “nature rich” garden designs in healthcare. Take note of your own abilities and circumstances, or that of a loved one, and consider how to make gardening and tasks easier for you next year by having a horticultural therapist maximize your connection with activities in purpose and meaning and assess your garden space (if applicable).  Gardens should be designed so that even when they are not physically accessible, they can be viewed from indoors and are a pleasure to see in all four seasons.  According to Roger Ulrich’s Theory of Supportive Garden Design (1999), healing gardens should provide the following:  Nature engagement (plants, animals, water, fresh air); a sense of control. For example, doorways that are easily navigable, and areas where people can find privacy; opportunities for social support, and lastly, opportunities for movement and exercise.  Nature should and must be present in a healing garden and unfortunately, “nature-poor” healthcare gardens are too common.  Biophilia, coined by Edward O. Wilson suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life

Laura is president of Final Touch Plantscaping, LLC

HTI Kudos:

By Lori Wholeshlager, HTR

I discovered horticultural therapy in 2008, while I was in training with the Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City. At the time, I was looking for a career change after 25 years of print production, and this felt like a good fit. Horticultural therapy intrigued me quite a bit, so I researched ways I could get education in the field, and eventually found the Horticultural Therapy Institute.

My first class was taken in 2011— the Fundamentals course at the Missouri Botanical Garden, with Donald Frisch hosting.  Since then, I continued to take a class at a time while still working as a paraprofessional in elementary education, completing my HT Certificate in Fall 2016.  Next, I enrolled in local schools to get the additional horticulture and human science credits required for registration, and also began my internship.
My intern site was Cornerstones of Care—Ozanam Campus.  This is an alternative school, primarily working with middle & high school students with backgrounds of trauma, behavioral issues, or developmental disabilities.  I worked with kids in their greenhouse program, where the focus was learning social skills and team work, improving motor skills, and acquiring vocational skills.
I was just granted my HTR credentials in late August 2018.  For now, I plan to do contract work in the Kansas City area, and would love to continue working with kids at least part of the time.  I’ll likely be working with a few different populations, and will enjoy all opportunities to share the benefits of HT with others.

Congratulations Lori we are proud of you!


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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