Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra
Program Manager, HT Institute

2019 Spring Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note: A Resource for Practice

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

RLH headshot EDITED

Spring semester classes at the Institute emphasize how therapists work with those served in HT and make adaptations to accommodate and encourage each client’s success. We also stress the importance that treatment interventions each have a clear focus in order to accomplish positive change. This clarity also supports the communication of documentable outcomes – it’s more than ‘feel good’ therapy!

In teaching these classes, it once again occurred to me what an important resource is available in Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Programs Second Edition. Review the appendices for many examples of goals, activities, measurement, treatment strategies, and activity planning resources. In addition to showing ideas you can use directly; they are primarily intended to be catalysts for your own creative and personalized approach to providing HT services. While the appendices do not read like a chapter, you are encouraged to explore them, as they are important resources for new and experienced practitioners.

Editors note: To find the book go to

Fall Fundamentals of HT classes enrolling

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

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:
One Way to Complete a Paid Internship

By Linda M. Hellow, HTR

The path to Registration as a Horticultural Therapist is challenging as the number of on-site paid internships is limited. After I completed the HTI courses, I needed a site where I could get internship hours. Like most of us, I also needed to work full time. Could I find a job that would provide an internship site? I knew that I wanted to apply my horticultural therapy skills with elders, so I started looking at Life Enrichment positions at retirement communities. An entry level Life Enrichment (or “Activities”) position does not have specific education requirements, and the job description is all about providing programs that encourage the creative, physical, spiritual, social, and mental well-being of elders. Definitely a good fit for horticulture programs! I just needed to find a place that had a garden and a management culture that would let me use it with the residents. It didn’t take long to find the perfect place: Holly Creek Life Plan Community in Centennial, CO.

I was hired to work in the health suites, which includes the assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing neighborhoods, as well as rehab therapy for residents and guests. After I spent about six months learning the Life Enrichment job, I started offering therapeutic horticulture programs for the residents. Before long, I acquired funding within the organization to purchase seed starting equipment and supplies. I also found an Eagle Scout who needed a project and had him remove the old spireas and day lilies from the garden and plant perennials that would be used in programming. This became my long-term project.

It took the full two years to complete the internship hours within the framework of the Life Enrichment position. However, working full-time in an elder community provided me with valuable learning opportunities:

  • Because I spent time in various settings with residents, my understanding of the aging and disease process increased significantly.
  • I used the documentation system required for skilled nursing communities daily, which allowed me to hone my skills in writing goals, objectives, interventions and progress notes.
  • I participated in interdisciplinary team meetings and learned from therapists, nurses, dietitians and social workers.
  • I received additional training in dementia and Eden Associate Training, plus financial assistance to complete my human development coursework.

For students who want to work with elders, doing an internship within the parameters of a Life Enrichment position could be a viable option. Plus, you never know what it could lead to. I’m currently redesigning two of the gardens to increase resident engagement. I wonder how we’ll get all those new plants propagated?!

Linda Hellow, HTR is a graduate of the Horticultural Therapy Institute and use her HT skills at Holly Creek Life Plan Community in Centennial, CO.

HTI Program Profile: On Common Ground

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

— Alfred Austin

By Amy Brightwood, HTR

At Common Ground garden in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, kids to young adults come to plant seeds, feel the sun and the breeze, get dirty, build garden beds, and harvest food to take home. We water and dig and rake, we feel the lamb’s ear and smell the mint and lavender, ring the bell and chimes, we “gobble, gobble” to the turkey, pet the horses, alpaca, bunny, and donkeys. We work, and we play!

With all of the headlines and books touting research that shows connecting with nature and plants is good for our health and well-being- our immune system, anxiety and depression levels, restored attention, sense of accomplishment and purpose, and on and on– we horticultural therapists have great opportunities to expand our work. Hopefully with this support of “evidence,” therapeutic gardens will move into the mainstream much like yoga and meditation have. We have known that growing a garden is good for the soul, mind, and body. We experience the sense of calm and decreased heart rate as we water. And we experience the sense of wonder and joy observing the growth from seed to bloom, or seed to plate.

As horticultural therapists, we get to invite others to experience these things, too.  Weekly, I get to see the growth of the middle and high schoolers who come to garden along with the growth of the plants. Community and social skills are grown as well as horticultural knowledge and gross and fine motor skills. Leadership and confidence grow, too.

We look forward to seeing each other, talking about our weeks, tending the garden and visiting the animals. A wonderful routine is developed. They know if Amy’s blue beat-up work truck is nearby, it will be a day for shoveling dirt or mulch. If potted plants are on the work table, we’ll be getting those in the ground. This past season we’ve built a sensory garden to invite an immersive experience engaging all our senses. This provides real interest and connection to the plants.

We also constructed a wheelchair accessible raised bed where the fun of a power drill was evident! There was joy and delight as the tulips we planted last fall burst into color. And of course, we grow lots of seasonal vegetables. We seed, transplant, weed and harvest.

We have our farm-based garden where groups and individual clients come for horticultural therapy. But I also go to schools and lead HT groups and offer staff training in therapeutic gardening.

Now, coming to the end of our first year at Common Ground, we have watched the garden through all seasons.  Can’t wait to spring into our second year.

Happy gardening!

Amy Brightwood, HTR is an HTI graduate and has her own HT consulting business, Common Ground.

HTI Kudos: Two students
achieve HTR status!

Congratulations to the most recent HTI graduates who have received their professional credentials of HTR (Registered Horticultural Therapist).

Amy Brightwood, HTR

Amy is trained as an HT and has served elementary school garden groups, mental health groups in a farm setting and long-term care facilities. Other work includes teacher trainings and serving young adults with disabilities. She has a BA in Psychology and master’s degree in human development and Spirituality. Her HT consulting business is Common Ground which offers horticultural therapy services on site at a local farm.

Mike Maddox, HTR

Greetings HTI students and alumni! This past March during horticultural therapy week I received word I earned the designation of horticultural therapist-registered.  I want to pass along encouragement for everyone else pursuing this.  For me, it was a 10 year journey, but to spare you the entire story I want to pass along my time spent after graduating from HTI in 2015.

Under the supervision of Dr. Jeannie Larson, HT-R and Manager of the University of Minnesota Nature-Based Therapeutic Services Program at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, I used my HTI assignments from the final course as my internship experiences.  This included facilitating a HT program at the William S. Middleton VA hospital in Madison, WI.  In partnership with the recreational therapist and master gardener volunteers we conducted a weekly program in their courtyard garden to focus on positive social activities for the senior aged veterans in recovery from acute and chronic illness and injury (basically, everything).  This past year, the garden was a co-recipient for a significant grant to better address memory care of hospital patients and is scheduled to get a makeover this year to better serve participants.

My HTI assignment for a professional development activity was used to train staff and volunteers at a tribal AODA treatment facility.  The center was a recipient of a food sovereignty grant for the tribal community and they wanted to explore ways of connecting their new garden, the needs of their patients, and the goals of the community.  Feedback from the training participants was positive and they continue to share their efforts with me, demonstrating the success of their efforts.

My pursuit of HT taught me many things, but the most important is how to focus on the objectives and goals.  I continue in my job as the state director for our master gardener program, and am incorporating aspects of HT into my overall program development.  This effort is resulting in volunteers taking part in more meaningful and measurable gardening opportunities as they engage various audiences and community members across the state.

Thank you Rebecca, Christine, and my HTI cohorts for this experience.



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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