Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra
Program Manager, HT Institute

2020 Summer Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note:
Preparing for Online Classes

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

Greetings from Rebecca:

At the Horticultural Therapy Institute, we are preparing for five fall classes.

In September and October, we will offer two sections of Horticultural Therapy Management in an online format for the first time. This course is designed for students who have successfully completed the other three courses, as it builds on the concepts and experience gained in those courses. Students train to propose, design, fund, develop, manage, and sustain new horticultural therapy programs. Assignments prepare them to deliver a comprehensive package of materials to launch and manage successful programs. It is an exciting class for students and instructors alike as it represents both a culmination of training and a point of new beginnings. I personally love to witness the creativity and passion expressed by students in Horticultural Therapy Management and eagerly anticipate the work they do to serve their communities and enhance the profession.

Lead instructor, Rebecca Haller, HTM and Kathy Perry, HTR from last year’s Fundamentals of HT class in Boothbay, ME.

Later in the fall HTI will offer three online Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy class sections. This is the starting point for the series of horticultural therapy courses. In Fundamentals students can explore a new career and/or human service tool for use in a wide array of programs and settings. Foundational in nature, this course considers research and other literature in the profession, program types and benefits to those served, as well as career and credentialing options. Some key concepts used in practice are also examined. Students take away ideas to begin a journey in the professional use of horticultural therapy as well as affiliations with others who value the connection with nature afforded by garden-based therapy. Online for the first time, the synchronous real-time experience will include interaction with students from varied backgrounds to promote contacts and relationships that many of our students continue to cultivate for a lifetime.

Program Profile: Gardening for Adults
Adapting to Functional Losses

By Trish Hildinger, HTR

In the Spring of 2016, just after taking the HT Programming class through HTI in Colorado, a friend asked me if I would like to shadow her at the Stroke and Disability Learning Center located on the Cabrillo College campus in Aptos California. She had been working there as a physical therapist for several years and thought horticultural therapy and I would be a good fit for the Center. After a tour and meeting some of the staff, I met with director Cynthia S. T. FitzGerald, PhD. After telling her about my horticultural therapy schooling and quest to become HTR, she invited me to contact her at the completion of my professional registration. In early January 2018, days after receiving my official horticultural therapy registration, I met with Dr. FitzGerald and she hired me for a trial run of three horticultural therapy classes for that summer. The classes proved to be popular with the students and staff, and I was asked to teach during the semester sessions.

Since 1974 the Stroke and Disability Learning Center (SDLC) has provided interdisciplinary educational programs for adults who have survived a stroke or are living with disabling conditions. It is unique in that it starts where medical rehabilitation leaves off. Patients become students and enroll in specialized classes to develop strategies and gain skills in a supportive learning community.

The goal of the SDLC is to support independence and promote maximum function for adults adapting to functional losses. There are Core classes such as speech, mobility, counseling and fitness and Heart classes including ceramics, painting and horticultural therapy. Classes are designed to meet the learning needs of each individual student, taking into account a wide range of disabilities and offering personalized assessment to identify individual learning goals.

Gardening is not new to the SDLC; in the early 2000’s Willow Lakos expanded on an even earlier class, originally envisioned by the occupational therapy and recreational therapy faculty. Though it had lapsed in recent years, Dr. FitzGerald and all the faculty and staff were, and continue to be, hugely supportive of the program.

Horticultural therapy classes are mainly held inside due to both lack of in-ground garden space and the health considerations of our students; some summer classes are held outside. In the Fall of 2019 I applied for and received a local Rotary Club grant allowing for the purchase of two self-watering raised beds and a mini greenhouse plus soil. The beds can be wheeled into the classroom when we are working with them. Many of our students use wheelchairs, walkers and canes, so analysis of movement in and out of the building is always a consideration.

A typical 80-minute class is comprised of several parts: From the garden, discussion or word of the day, demonstration and the activity. In from the garden, I bring a few choice plants and flowers from my garden, or perhaps a lovely container plant purchased from a nursery. We discuss the plant, it’s origins and growth habit. This is usually a lively discussion and invites stories from the students. An introduction of the day’s activity follows, along with what kind of meaning we might take from it.  For instance, on the first day of class I may have students write or speak goals they have for the semester and pair it with the activity of planting seeds for new beginnings. During the demonstration, conversation flows about the goals and the activity. Classes are casual and there is time and space allowed for conversation and community. Social goals are very important for our students, along with the emotional, physical and cognitive goals.

Most students enjoy taking the fruits of their labors home with them. For those that either don’t have the means or the space to bring home plants and seedlings, I nurture them at home until they can be planted in our raised beds or donated to the local garden club. They in turn sell the donated plants to raise scholarship funds for horticulture students at Cabrillo. We also plant specifically for a Fall and Spring plant and art sale at the SDLC, the funds then funnel back to the students through the Standing Tall Club. In donating and sharing plants there is a sense of pride, contribution, belonging and community.

This spring classes changed mid-semester to a pre-recorded video format and all summer courses were cancelled. As of this writing Fall class format is still to be determined. In preparing for online education, I am gathering materials and supplies to make kits to give students for live, distanced horticultural therapy classes together. We will also take online field trips to gardens, arboretums and nurseries, and possibly have personal, physically distanced, one-on-one visits for our most isolated students.

Horticultural therapy and connecting people with nature and plants is work that remains vital in this changing world.

Trish Hildinger, HTR is a graduate of the HT Institute, has a B.S. in Horticulture and is a registered horticultural therapist. She started Horticultural Therapy Santa Cruz after teaching gardening for 25 years and is co-founder of California Horticultural Therapy Network.

HT Institute Classes Shift to Online

The HT Institute is going strong and working hard to continue to lead the field in horticultural therapy education. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis we’ve carefully decided to move our fall 2020 classes 100 percent online. We will offer the same quality content for which the Institute is known and plan to return to face-to-face learning as soon as it’s safe for everyone.  Enrollment is now open for the fall class, Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy.

How will Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy
be taught online?

The class will be live and synchronous using Zoom to engage students in real-time discussion and experiences with as much interaction as possible. The lead instructor will be Rebecca Haller, HTM, along with several guest speakers. Times will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2:30 on Sunday.

What do students say about live synchronous
learning with the HT Institute?

“I think your team did an excellent job instructing over Zoom, and I very much appreciate the ability to take this course from my home during this difficult time.”

Casey Friesenhahn, Video Producer
Horticultural Therapy Programming, Spring 2020

 “I was very surprised that I could actually learn in this online format! Success! You all did a great job.”

Hayes Chamoun, RN
Horticultural Therapy Programming, Spring 2020

“The Zoom class was better than I expected. The activities were well-coordinated. It was evident that a tremendous amount of work with attention to detail went into preparing for the online class. I learned so much that I will apply to my practice.”

Evelyn Joran-Thiel, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Horticultural Therapy Programming, Spring 2020

What are the dates for
Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes?

Section I-(CO series) Mountain Time Zone (GMT-7)
Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2020
Deadline for enrollment: Sept. 29, 2020

 Section II-(CA series) Pacific Time Zone (GMT-8)
Nov. 12-15, 2020
Deadline for enrollment: Oct. 12, 2020

Section III-(either series) Eastern Time Zone (GMT-5)
Dec. 3-6, 2020
Deadline for enrollment: Nov. 3, 2020

What is meant by CO or CA series?

Before COVID-19 the upcoming series of classes was scheduled to take place in each of these regions (CO-Colorado, CA-California). In order to make a smooth transition to a face-to-face format when, and if, possible, we will continue to use these descriptions to distinguish the two series.

How does Section III fit into the series framework?

Historically the Institute has offered a third Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy class each year to reach an audience that resides outside of the regional series. This year, that section is scheduled in the Eastern Time Zone in order to make it more feasible for those on the East coast or from outside of the United States to attend.

Are there assignments?

Yes, pre-class assignments will include reading specific sections of the textbook, The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy, and a literature review of journal articles. Details of what to read and complete before class will be emailed to enrolled students beginning in early fall. Additional assignments will be given in class to be submitted to the instructor and discussed during the four-day class meeting.

 What topics will be covered in the class?

This course introduces the profession and practice of horticultural therapy. The types of programs utilizing horticultural therapy as well as the cognitive, social, emotional and physical goals for the varied people served are considered. Students review and discuss professional literature in the field and are exposed to resources for further exploration as well as to professionals in the field. For learning objectives, go to:

 Can the class be taken for college credit?

Yes. The Horticultural Therapy Institute partners with Colorado State University to offer college credit for all the certificate classes. Fundamentals is two semester credits.

We look forward to meeting new students and continuing to provide a model curriculum, real-life projects, experienced instructors and a path for students to practice the effective and timely modality of horticultural therapy. To enroll go to:

For questions email Christine Capra at: [email protected] or call 303-388-0500.

By Christine Capra, HTI Program Manager

Tips for Practice:
No Substitute For Experiential Learning

By Silvia Yoshimizu-Yee

There’s no substitute for experiential learning.  Eager to employ the theoretical knowledge I recently acquired while at the Horticultural Therapy Institute’s certificate program and with no previous experience, I agreed to pilot a Garden Therapy class at a non-profit organization here in Los Angeles. The investment for the organization was low, but still, I was fortunate they were willing to hire me.  For ten months, I led a weekly therapeutic horticulture (TH) class to groups of women recovering from drug addictions while receiving housing and on-site rehabilitation services for a minimum of 30-180 days.  All of the residents were dual-diagnosed with PTSD, mood, and/or eating disorders.  They were diverse ethnically, socio-economically and in their sexual-orientation.   Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic cut the original one-year term short.  Nonetheless, the experience was a robust learning opportunity.

I wrote notes throughout the 10-month program, documenting what worked and what didn’t; essentially the trials & errors.  Below are the greatest takeaways along with a few anecdotes:

  • Align program with the organization’s approach to treatment. The organization’s Trauma-Informed approach to care, has six core principles, i.e. safety, peer support, collaboration, empowerment, humility and responsiveness.  Integrating these principles helped guide my interactions and offered a familiar language to connect with clients and staff.
  • Be adaptable and have back-up plans. Due to high-turnover and a spectrum of mental and physical states, there were constant variables.  The following are tips to help manage the variables.
    • Set expectations – Start each class by setting expectations with boundaries, instructions about the activity, and class protocols. These expectations provide for a safe teaching/learning environment.
    • Use multiple instructional techniques – Due to the various learning and physical abilities, employ learning techniques such as verbal, written, hand gestures, and physical assistance when needed.
    • Document – Take written or photographic notes during or immediately after class when names and observations are fresh in the mind. These notes will help refine activities and ultimately make for more effective programming.  They will also serve as good back up and marketing visuals.
    • Have a Plan A, B, and C – Be ready to modify to or have alternative activities for those unable or unwilling to engage in the day’s lesson. Watering is a reliable activity to calm the agitated.  Also, reading nature-related publications can be an effective option as well.  These activities met the clients where they were while keeping them engaged.
    • Identify and appoint helpers, doers and greasers – Identify and appoint the “helpers” who can assist during class and in between classes. Also identify and utilize the “doers” who take satisfaction in busy or laborious work, which others feel is too strenuous or tedious.  Finally, the “greasers” keep group relations smooth.  You can use their influence and understanding of the group dynamics to get others to cooperate.
  • Know the group’s daily schedule. Avoid intervals of drug withdrawal, which can cause lethargy, illness, and/or moodiness.
  • Be aware of possible triggers. A lesson involving seed counting, can trigger memories of counting pills or cutting drugs.

My view of my work and of my clients was important in developing relationships and a program, which at the very least lay a foundation for positive change.  Theories[1] of resilience, use of self, and strength-based approaches as well as cultural competence, and my belief in the unseen process were the leading constructs that influenced much of my work.  I was also guided by experienced professionals.  When HTI instructor, Dr. Jay Rice, explained that “people who struggle with addiction often have greater sensitivity to the sufferings inherent in our human lives”, I decided resiliency and adaptation would be at the heart of the program. As such, every class included some form of education (mostly garden-related) coupled with a creative or maintenance activity (e.g. sowing seeds, transplanting, watering, weeding), which would offer a new skill or education.  I regularly challenged clients’ limitations with their consent.  I fondly remember Marie, who would quickly scatter and raise an octave at the sight of a bee, which was contrary to her rough, grim personality.  After an appropriate human response to her fear, I wondered what opportunity I was being presented with.  The following week’s lesson focused on bee behavior, the importance of bees, I introduced the term “apiphobia”, and challenged Marie and others to sit as close as she/they felt safe.  She never ran in fear again….at least not in my presence.  Not every story has a clear outcome and maybe Marie still runs away from bees, but for those months together, I believe I opened a door to positive change because I believed in her and I believed in the power of TH.

The Garden Therapy teaching conditions were very challenging, some obvious from the start and others latent, which maybe I can expand on in a subsequent article about program management.   However, despite the challenges during the ten months, not only was I able to bridge practical experience with classroom knowledge, I deepened my understanding of the subject matter.

[1] Wichrowski, M. J. (2006). Skills and Theories to Inform Horticultural Therapy Practice. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 17.

Silvia is a graduate of the HT Institute,  lives in Los Angeles where she volunteers as a Master Gardener, raises kids and is finding her voice in the HT industry.  She has her M.A. in Public Administration with an emphasis in Non-Profit Management.

HTI Kudos:

Student receives HT credentials:

Congratulations to two HTI graduates: Kerri Burges, HTR who recently received her professional registration and Irene Barber, HTR who was elected to serve as the American Horticultural Therapy Associations (AHTA) board director. Best of luck to you both!