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

2018 Winter Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note:
New Textbook Available!

By: Rebecca Haller, HTM

The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy

This new major 362-page work is now available! Thanks to the authors who contributed chapters and program descriptions, as well as those who shared photographs, an original and comprehensive textbook on horticultural therapy has been published. Editors Rebecca Haller, Karen Kennedy, and Christine Capra hope the book will support the advancement of the profession of horticultural therapy as well as be a catalyst for excellence in its application and programming. We are very excited to have a new tool for HT education. Although the book may look similar to Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Program, second edition, with its black cover and photos, there if very little overlap in subject matter. The two textbooks are intended to compliment each other as well as stand alone in their content.

Following is a summary from the publisher, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, about the book.

The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy is a comprehensive guide to the theories that horticultural therapists use as a foundation for their practice and provides wide-ranging illustrative models of programming. This book aims to enhance understanding and provide insight into the profession for both new and experienced practitioners. It is directed to students in the field, along with health care and human service professionals, to successfully develop and manage horticultural therapy programming.

The book is organized into four sections: an overview of the horticultural therapy profession, theories supporting horticultural therapy use, models for programs, and tools for the therapist.

Horticultural therapy serves the needs of the whole individual when practitioners have a broad and deep comprehension of the theories, techniques, and strategies for effective program development and management. The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy provides relevant and current information on the field with the intent to inspire best practices and creative, effective programs.”

I hope you enjoy the book and are inspired to develop brilliant and effective programs.


Editors note: To order the book go to

New Fall Class Dates and New Site:

Most people agree that gardening has therapeutic benefits. But horticultural therapy (HT) is more than a good dose of sunshine and exercise or even nurturing a beautiful indoor plant and growing healthy food. It’s an innovative therapeutic methodology that combines science with soul. And it can be life changing.

Begin your journey into this profession with one of three opportunities this fall.

Fundamentals of HT class in Denver

Oct. 10-13, 2019
Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens
Boothbay, ME (new site!)

Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2019
Skyland Trail
Atlanta, GA

Nov. 14-17, 2019
Anchor Center for Blind Children
Denver, CO

Horticultural therapy is a profession that uses gardening practices in healthcare and human service programs to heal, rehabilitate and reach treatment goals for a wide range of people. For example, horticultural therapist work with aging adults, people with Alzheimer’s disease, at-risk youth, veterans, people with disabilities and those recovering from illness, addiction or imprisonment. There are no prerequisites for enrolling in Fundamentals of HT and our hybrid distance-learning format allows students to minimize travel time and costs by attending four or five consecutive days of face-to-face intensive class time at one location.

The remaining three classes in the certificate program will be held in Colorado and North Carolina. For more information or to enroll go to or email [email protected]. Call us at 303-388-0500.


Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice:
HT with Students with Special Needs

The Monarch School of New England
Kathryn Perry, MA, OTR/L, HTR

Introduction — Live the Dream!

The following horticultural therapy tips for working with students with significant special needs incorporate strategies learned from the multidisciplinary team of therapists and special educators at The Monarch School of New England, located in Rochester, New Hampshire.

The Monarch School of New England (MSNE) is a private, nonprofit, year-round day school for 63 students, ages 5 to 21, who have severe physical, intellectual, emotional, medical, and developmental disabilities. Recognized for their excellence, the educational, vocational, and therapeutic programs at MSNE are based on an integrated team approach with a vast array of traditional and innovative therapies, including horticultural therapy. For more information about The Monarch School of New England, please visit the school’s website:

School Garden Design and Maintenance — It Takes a Village

Garden Design: When creating a therapeutic school garden, incorporate elements suggested by your educators, therapists and students, employing surveys, garden suggestion boxes, brainstorming sessions, voting ballots, and garden models. All these tools generate schoolwide enthusiasm, ownership, and pride for the garden.

Garden Maintenance: The garden needs many hands to keep it thriving. A popular strategy at MSNE is a monthly Wine and Weeding after-school staff party, hosted by our executive director. During the school day, students serve as Garden Helpers, with jobs such as watering, turning the compost, plant propagation, etc. During vacations, watering is performed by administrators and volunteers.

School Connections — No Therapist Is an Island

School Community: Opportunities abound for horticultural therapy to become an integral part of the school community. Growing food for the cafeteria, selling garden produce and plant-based items for the school store, conducting annual fundraisers (seed, plant, and bulb sales), creating centerpieces for prom and other school events — the possibilities are plentiful. Sessions are enhanced and cross training occurs when co-treating with other therapists. Coordinated projects with classes such as art (creating seed packet designs) and woodworking (making living roof birdhouses) help to generate excitement for both programs.

Curriculum: School gardens are trending! With rich potential connections between gardening and the curriculum, teachers and administrators value horticultural therapy even more when academics are reinforced. Curriculum resources for school gardens are readily available, at both the state and national levels. Some online resources include:; National Agriculture in the Classroom (; and ECO Schools USA/National Wildlife Federation ( and the School Garden Support Organization Network ( Support for school gardens is available through local networks and statewide cooperative extension services. Cooperative extension also serves as a resource for school garden-related laws specific to each state.

In the past, an annual academic subject (e.g., science, art, geography, history, or literature) was reinforced in horticultural therapy at MSNE. The school recently transitioned to Unique Curriculum, a structured model in which all classes participate in the same monthly theme, with different standards for each grade level. It is surprising how easily horticultural therapy can incorporate topics such as the states of matter; holiday traditions; biomes; economics; and recycling.

Horticultural Therapy Group Sessions — Keep it Simple

Group Size: The ideal horticultural therapy group size at MSNE is two to four students. The available space can quickly fill up with every student accompanied by an educational technician and/or a therapist. A smaller group also reduces visual and auditory distractions, decreases waiting time between turns, and fosters more interaction between the horticultural therapist and each student.

Structure: Familiar routines reduce stress and increase learning through repetition. MSNE horticultural therapy sessions follow the same sequence each week: greeting the students, playing a short piece of music related to the activity, introducing and performing the activity, cleaning up, and choosing a favorite garden task (e.g., listening to a song or reading a book related to the garden activity; feeding the red wiggler worms; turning the compost pile; swinging on the garden swing; and the favorite: watering plants).

Universal Design for Learning: The goal is to maximize engagement of students with diverse needs, by presenting information in a variety of modes, and providing different ways for students to express themselves and participate in the activity. Consultation with special educators and therapists will help to design the sessions.

Accommodations: Although each student is unique, many strategies are available to improve the therapeutic experience for most students.

Cognitive Accommodations

  • Plunge right in! Most special needs students are hands-on learners, and have difficulty with lengthy wait time.
  • Present one primary idea/activity per session. Adjust the number of steps to the student level.
  • Focus on the process rather than the product.
  • Provide visuals (appropriate for visual and intellectual ability) so that students can anticipate the steps of the activity. Examples include
    • a “work strip” composed of pictures of each step (e.g. Mayer Johnson symbols);
    • directions written at the student’s reading level; and
    • a sequence of object cues that the child feels from a left to right sequence (for the vision impaired).


Social Emotional Accommodations

  • Be flexible. For example, if a student has difficulty joining the group activity in the garden area, bring the directions and materials to the classroom, or provide alternative garden tasks.
  • Provide choices to increase motivation and self-advocacy.

Sensory Accommodations

  • Each student processes sensory stimulation differently, affecting emotional regulation as well as how materials are perceived. Students hypersensitive to stimulation may require particular adaptations to tamp down the sensory experience:
    • Turn off the greenhouse fan.
    • Provide gloves when working with soil.
    • Avoid strong scented herbs.
    • Use long handled tools to reduce bending over.
    • Add a shade cover to diminish bright light.
  • Students who are hyposensitive to stimulation may require adaptations to enhance the sensory experience:
    • Use a metal bowl that “pings” when touched.
    • Add textured handles on tools.
    • Encourage self-initiated smelling of plants.
    • Have them sit on a therapy ball at the garden table.
    • Incorporate brightly colored objects.
  • To address visual perceptual challenges, including cortical visual impairment, consult with the teacher of the visually impaired. In general, students benefit from uncluttered settings with high contrast materials. Provide solid colored backgrounds against which to present materials, such as by wearing a solid colored shirt, and using a black tablecloth. Cover clutter by draping it with tarps or fabric. Other materials to have available to accommodate different visual perceptual needs include:
    • shiny tools,
    • brightly colored objects,
    • a flashlight, and
    • slant boards.

Gross and Fine Motor Accommodations:

  • Most students are best positioned when sitting with the hips, knees, and ankles flexed at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor, and the height of the table approximately 2 inches above the navel. Adjustable-height tables, or a variety of table and chair heights, can accommodate students of different sizes. Adjustable height tables, or tall work benches, also accommodate students who prefer to stand.
  • Provide a variety of adapted tools and devices to accommodate physical challenges. For students with limited fine-motor dexterity, large button switches can operate switch-adapted equipment such as pouring and watering devices.

Conclusion — Enjoy the Journey

Horticultural therapists recognize that many unanticipated factors influence how a garden grows. It is also important to accept the unforeseen circumstances that alter horticultural therapy sessions. With strategies in their toolbox, therapists will be prepared to expect the unexpected. And with an open mind, they will understand that being a horticultural therapist is a process, not a product!

Kathy has been a guest speaker in HTI’s Fundamentals of HT class and is a sidebar contributor in the upcoming new textbook, “The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy”

HTI Program Profile:
Maine’s Botanical Garden and HT

 By Irene Brady Barber, HTR
Educator and Horticultural Therapist
Coastal Maine Botanic Garden

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a premier 330-acre botanical garden situated in Maine’ s mid-coast town of Boothbay.  Visitors find the award-winning universal access botanical garden hidden within the boreal forest of spruces, pines, oaks, maples, beech, firs and perishable ash trees sitting atop ledged topography, over-looking the shoreline of the tidal Sheepscot River that opens to the Atlantic Ocean only one mile away. It’s here that horticultural therapy programming takes place. After the garden’s opening in 2009, the director of the Gardens (CMBG) and volunteer and patrons, Molly and Wells Moore decided that as part of the mission of creating the therapeutic garden knows as the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses horticultural therapy programming would be important. They have a personal commitment that the garden be accessible to people of all abilities. Molly, a once avid gardener, lost her sight overnight due to meningococcal meningitis.  She and Wells made it their mission to share in the benefits and beauty of what gardening does for the human spirit.

My journey to the garden began as a new member to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, and a professional desire to expand my positions as a landscape designer and horticulture sales associate at a nearby garden center. Upon completing two separate interviews, late spring arrived in 2010 and I excitedly and nervously began coordinating the pilot program of therapeutic horticulture within the ‘Taste’ area of the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses.  Now in 2019, I have  since achieved my certificate in Horticultural Therapy from HTI, is a Registered Horticultural Therapist and continues to lead horticultural therapy programming at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

The ‘Taste’ area of the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses includes wheelchair access into the raised stone wall beds that enable:

  • forward-body positioning to garden
  • a railing to guide the gardeners along the raised bed and to support independent walking ability while tending, smelling or touching or harvesting the edible plants
  • vertical gardens in the open floor space to engage dimensional access of the panels and create a dynamic tactile and visual experience,
  • up-close opportunity to smell the plants.

In this space also stands a hospitable post and beam pavilion that serves as the shaded garden-activity space as well as encourages comfortable conversation.  A pergola to the side, provides a quiet and more secluded area with rounded picnic tables.  There is no doubt, it is an incredible space and offers an opportunity to work with individuals of all varying abilities, reminding me of the gifts of life.

In addition to the Five Senses Garden, a brightly lit opening of beautifully designed spaces features additional gardens such as, The Alfond Children’s Garden,  The Haney Hillside Garden, the Fairy House Village, Giles Rhododendron Garden and the recently planted Butterfly House and Garden among many other ecological garden spaces and vignettes.

Something else magical about this botanical destination is that it has incredible support from 300 or so volunteers who assist our 40 year-round and additional 30 seasonal staff.

Although, the horticultural therapy programming has a committed following, there is room for development, including the demand to expand programming to year-round off-site.  Upon the completion of CMBG’s new conservatory, programming will expand into that arena as well.  Educationally, CMBG wants to serve as a center for training prospective horticultural therapists and in doing so, CMBG is thrilled to begin by co-hosting with HTI its preliminary class, Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy in October of 2019.

For more information regarding the course in October, please contact Christine Capra of HTI.   Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens hopes you will consider attending.

Irene is a graduate of the HT Institute

Kudos to HTI Students:

Congratulations to former HTI student, Isabelle Boucq on the publication of a new book in France. From Isabelle: In early January 2019, “Le Shinrin-Yoku en famille : Invitation aux bains de forêt” was released in bookstores (it is published by a French educational publisher called Hatier). In short, the book tells parents, and also children directly, how nature is good for us as humans. It gives some simple ideas for venturing into nature as a family.

After sharing (scientific) evidence that being connected to nature has positive effects on children’s development and on the well-being of all, the book continues with a tale that I called “The Wise Man and the Wild Children ». The next two sections get into the heart of the matter. The first one offers 40 activities for all ages, many inspired by my experience as a parent, by more recent knowledge in relaxation or practices I learned from others. I wanted to offer a mix of ideas, some appropriate for adventures in nature and others in the city and even at home. The last part is dedicated to more general suggestions (creating a shared garden, going on a night walk, taking a survival course, going out in the rain,…).

One message I feel strongly about is to encourage parents to give their children more freedom, especially in nature, which can seem frightening to some parents. I tried to sprinkle this message here and there in the book, in the story and elsewhere.