Horticultural Therapy is making an impact on people’s lives.
Read more about how it’s happening.
By Rebecca Haller, HTM
A workshop called ‘Horticultural Therapy in Local Governments’ was held in Izmir, Turkey on January 8, 2020 to discuss the use of gardens and horticultural therapy in a variety of settings. An enthusiastic group of around 450 therapists, designers, disability advocates, government employees, educators, and policy influencers attended the lectures and round table discussions. Sessions included definitions and uses of horticultural therapy by special education faculty and a graduate student from Dukuz Eylül and Istanbul universities. Design of horticultural therapy areas and urban green areas was also addressed by a professor of landscape architecture from Ankara. The latter half of the morning was devoted to ‘Best Practices in Horticultural Therapy.’ This is where I came in. Along with two colleagues from Germany – Konrad Nueberger, a horticultural therapist, and Christa Ringkamp, a designer and farmer – we described specifics of its practice and use. I presented on the use of horticultural therapy for people with intellectual disabilities in the US, covering a range of approaches, particularly those promoting vocational or wellness outcomes. Several US programs were described and highlighted, along with the design of spaces used in them. The afternoon consisted of lively round table discussions of questions such as: what is horticultural therapy, what types of activities can be used, what else do we need to think about with design, and what can local governments do to encourage the use of horticultural therapy? These discussions are an important part of the process to adopt horticultural therapy as an accepted practice and to influence future policies that support its use in schools, hospitals, other therapy situations, and for general health and wellness.
It is evident to me that this group will keep moving and promoting, and that they also have a clear understanding of the importance of access to green nature for all people. It was inspiring and delightful to be even a small part of the development of horticultural therapy in Turkey. A special thanks to Dr. Sunay Yildirim Dogru for the invitation.
By Mike Bolio
In the more than six years that I have been farming and working with adults with autism and developmental disabilities, I have gone through many trial and errors, created my own techniques, modified equipment and have been fortunate to learn from many great farmers and teachers in this industry. Below you will find a few tips for sowing seeds, storing dried herbs with minimal space and fun projects for the fall and winter months.
In the program I run, we have a partnership with a local community farm where we team up to provide food to local housing neighborhoods free of cost and sell vegetable and flower CSA’s to the surrounding community. This involves working with multiple varieties of seeds, both big and small, and requires us to be consistently accurate with the amount of seeds that were sowing. Whether you have a large greenhouse or just a row of grow lights in your classroom, the methods below will prove useful for anyone.
The trays you see pictured were purchased from Johnny’s Seeds and Greenhouse Megastores. Each tray pictured has different sized cells and are labeled by the number of cells that are in each tray.
The first step is to identify the correct size tray for the seed variety. Next, water is added to the soil and mixed together. We then add soil to the seedling tray by scooping with hands or small cups. After filling with soil, pick up the tray and drop it on a level surface to remove any air pockets. Then, add remaining soil to level off.
For germination, each seed has specific requirements. These include a desired depth of planting, surface sowing, light, darkness, chilling periods and whether they are to be directly sown into the ground or transplanted. Fortunately, all of this information is located on the back of your seed packets.
After determining the needs of the specific seed, we then start prepping the tray for planting. This consists of placing a small indent in each cell relative to the depth required. This can be achieved by using an index finger or the closed end of a sharpie. Once the entire tray is prepped you are now ready to start placing seeds in each cell.
Over the years, I have gone through many iterations of this process, from placing seeds in a paper plate, placing seeds in the participants hands, having them pick out seeds from my hands/their hands, dropping seeds in with cups – the list goes on and on. Since the fine and gross motor skills of participants in the program can vary widely, I kept running into the same problems: dropped seeds on the floor, too many seeds in one cell and difficulty seeing and picking up the seeds. I have since developed this process and while still imperfect, I find it eliminates most of these issues.
Pictured above, I place a white erase board that measures 12 inches across. This helps to stabilize the seeds from moving. They are now much easier to see with white as a contrast background.
Next, we pour out a small amount of seeds in the middle of the whiteboard to pull from. Seeds are then lined up in front of each cell and then dragged into the cells with either an index finger or wooden label marker. After each row is done, we just slide the whiteboard to the next row of cells.
Storing herbs with minimal space:
Space is an ongoing issue for most of us. Whether you have a classroom and small garden or a large farm and greenhouse, you can never have enough space. Recently, I developed a way to cure and store dried herbs that we grow utilizing minimal space indoors.
Pictured below is a donut cooling channel rack that was purchased from a restaurant supply store. It measures 70 inches high, 26 inches wide, 20.5 inches depth and is easily moved around on wheels.
Activities for Fall and Winter Months:
During the fall and winter months, when the growing season has slowed or come to a halt, we sustain our program by using plants and flowers grown earlier in the season and incorporate them into art projects.
Place 1 bunch of dried herbs on each plate and then break off flowers and leaves into the empty cup, discarding the stems. Repeat this process for each individual herb until your tea recipe is complete.
Tea Mixture example: equal parts Lavender, Lemon Balm, Sweet Thai Basil
Take the spoon and move it up and down chopping all of the herbs in the cup. This step is particularly fun as it will release all of the wonderfully smelling aromatics that accompany all of the plants or herbs you are using.
After chopping down the herbs to smaller pieces, use the spoon to add the mixture to the tea bag. Close label and enjoy!
Cut floral foam to fit the pot. The foam can be pushed in and will stay in place but for added support you can use a hot glue gun to secure more tightly.
Add dried moss to the flowerpot to cover the foam. As in the previous step, the moss will stay in place on its own but using a glue gun for added support is an option as well.
Using multiple dried flowers cut at different lengths, insert each stem into the floral foam. Starting from the middle and working your way out is the best way to obtain a full looking bouquet and avoids breaking off too many stems in the process.
Place anywhere in your home that avoids direct sunlight and enjoy for years to come!
I hope you find these ideas and suggestions helpful in sparking creative projects and solutions in your own programs.
Mike is the Horticulture Program Coordinator for the Charles River Center in Needham, MA and a past HTI student. For more information on the Charles River Center see:
By Faryn-Beth Hart, HTR
One thing that continues to inspire me about horticultural therapy is the amazing variety of settings available to work in and the endless possibilities for different folks that are seeking healing or wellness.
During my Fundamentals Course in 2014 with HTI in Half Moon Bay, CA, I realized that I had a strong call to work with people in eating disorder recovery. This disease had beset many loved ones in my life but it was hard to find research on the topic or a program to model. Necessity bred invention and the passion I felt about carving my own program led to my designing a curriculum for a garden therapy group for people seeking treatment for eating disorders.
A classmate shared the name of a recovery center that her friend had stayed at during her treatment and I reached out for a site visit. Center for Discovery has been treating clients in eating disorder recovery for over twenty years by offering residential treatment in a home setting to provide a maximum of six clients with more comfort and integrative tools. They have locations in neighborhoods around the country and use evidence-based protocols to specialize in eating disorder recovery but treat comorbid diagnoses especially anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
Center for Discovery were inspired by the possibility of what horticultural therapy could offer their clients in recovery and I was granted a pilot program in September 2015 using the Program Proposal that I had designed for my HT Management Course with HTI. My initial program consisted of ten horticultural therapy sessions each covering a different activity using plants, herbs and other materials that I brought in as there was no option yet to garden on site. The activities were designed to cover the most common challenges associated with eating disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, social anxiety, depression, resistance to weight gain and aimed to develop self awareness, coping skills, compensatory behaviors and distress tolerance. As an example, to encourage self awareness and the expression of emotions I have clients use flowers and other plant materials to design arrangements that represent their personalities. The activity offers clients a chance to center themselves and focus on a creative task. It also offers clients the opportunity to examine their internal landscape and to reflect on their perception of self – outside of their one-on-one therapy sessions – in a visual and sensory way.
Clients use flowers with buds to represent the healed and whole self they wish to unfurl; they use thorny or dead plants to represent the numbness they feel, their resistance to treatment, or what they want to leave behind; the color or height of plants represent their confidence or lack thereof. I am always blown away by the insight shared by each participant.
After the success of the pilot program I began running horticultural therapy groups at three sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. I meet with clients once a week for an hour long group in the morning. I set up the activity at a table outside regardless of the weather and it is often the only time that clients are allowed outside during the week. It is common for clients in this population to have unstable vitals therefore our activities are done seated as much as possible. Yet, a walk in the garden is often such a simple remedy for mental rumination or feelings of hopelessness and I will have wheelchairs available for clients whose movement has been restricted due to their low weight.
It has been vital to work together with the treatment team onsite to ensure the success of the garden group. This collaboration means that I am tailoring the activities to the individual treatment goals of each client, I know who is at risk for self harm or fainting, and it has ensured simple things like rescheduling the landscaping crew so they do not start mowing the lawn during our group.
I have now been able to build planter boxes at each site and will incorporate watering and harvesting into as many groups as possible. Joint commission standards unfortunately prevent clients from eating produce from the garden but we harvest produce for staff, for clients’ families who visit, and clients are encouraged to harvest from the garden before they discharge from treatment. I also donate produce to another of my sites where I facilitate garden programming with homeless and low income families. We grow flowers to press and use in crafts and we grow many medicinal herbs, such as lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, holy basil, mint, and lemon verbena that we use when making perfumes or tea blends.
I have maintained many of the activities from the initial pilot program and have developed others as my experience of the challenges my clients face becomes more nuanced. My mission in the garden program is for my clients to “connect to food off the plate”. We often engage with fear foods such as oils – when making herbal salves or perfumes – or starches like wheat or potatoes. I have not met anyone yet who has not had immeasurable fun digging in a garden bed for the treasure of potatoes.
It has felt essential to impart the value of self care. The garden provides endless metaphors for growth, and tending to a plant can offer an important reflection of what is needed for a living thing to thrive and be nourished. Witnessing a seed germinate from the darkness beneath the soil or propagating succulents that are resilient and can survive the harshest conditions provides hope and encouragement for clients who are resistant to treatment or feel stuck. Many of my clients identify as perfectionists and by using flowers and objects from nature to decorate candles or press into clay they are able to see how simple it can be to create something beautiful – nature is beautiful without effort.
I like to offer projects where clients make something that they can take home when they discharge to support the integration of their treatment in their lives. Perfumes made with spices and herbs can be used to activate positive memories; herbal salves can be used on their body as self care; candles decorated with pressed flowers can provide a calming glow to a bath or meal time, tisanes made with dried herbs from the garden can calm the nervous system or settle the stomach after a meal. These offer continued opportunities for connection, for calming the mind and building resilience to stressful triggers. Many of my clients take home seeds and are excited to plant them in their gardens. These are their commitments to engaging in healthy and generative behaviors that will replace and improve the self destructive and disconnective behaviors that harmed them previously.
I continue to be inspired and challenged to develop activities that support mental health and feel such a sense of gratitude to be able to use horticultural therapy in the garden to encourage my clients to reconnect with food and to reconnect with themselves.
Faryn-Beth is an HTI graduate and provides HT programming in the Northern California.
Rebecca Haller, HTM (director of the HT Institute) and Christine Capra (Program Manager) are happy to announce the Chinese edition of their 2nd edition textbook Horticultural Therapy Methods: Connecting People and Plants in Health Care, Human Services, and Therapeutic Programs. The Chinese edition was translated by former HTI student, Professor Jocelyn Shing-jy Tsao; Connie Yuen-yee Fung, horticultural therapist; Professor Victor Chen and Professor Daniel Rong-huei Sheu. The book was published in Taiwan by Wu-Nan Book Inc. in November 2019.
Learn how to combine a passion for gardening and helping people 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 three locations.
Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2020
Anchor Center for Blind Children
Nov. 12-15, 2020
Half Moon Bay, California
Dec. 3-6, 2020
Los Angeles, California
For full class descriptions, schedules and enrollment forms go to our web site at www.htinstitute.org or call 303-388-0500.
Loveland Youth Gardeners in Loveland, Colorado has hired past HTI student Jessica Morgan as their new executive director and HTI student Erica Wharton as program director. Way to go Jessica and Erica.
The Colorado Garden Foundation will award a total of $543,000 to local nonprofits, which use horticulture as a means to promote healing, learning, and in some cases, hope. Two HTI partners received awards.
Anchor Center for Blind Children (site of several HTI classes):
Anchor Center will receive a $9,000 grant to renovate their outdoor classroom and continue their compost services, which they use to teach students about the plant life cycle and environmental sustainability in their horticultural therapy program.
Craig Hospital (site of an HTI field trip):
Craig Hospital will receive a $3,750 grant to replace a flagstone pathway and update its existing garden spaces.
Congratulations to both horticultural therapy programs!
View the recording of a recent live webinar:
Topic: Entering the Profession of Horticultural Therapy
You will learn:
Credits available through