Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra
Program Manager, HT Institute

2021 Spring Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note:
Consider Native Plantings

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

Echinacea, Salvia, and Liatris in my garden

Over the past many months, while humans retreated and protected each other by social distancing, we commuted less, gardened more, and discovered or renewed our appreciation for the natural world. With warmer spring and summer weather and the safeguard of vaccination, we now plan, gather, and plant. As we reconnect with the individuals we serve in HT, how about adding in some native plants to your garden beds? Natives typically thrive if their natural habitats are considered when choosing the spot in which to plant them – they often do not need pampering and might even do best if they experience the natural rainfall and soils of your area.

Sound like a good idea for a low maintenance part of the garden – an area that succeeds without too many demands? Many natives are also important sources of nectar, food and shelter for birds and butterflies that bring joy and interest to program participants. They enable a connection to the broader natural community for those whose circle has diminished in scope due to age or illness. An earth-friendly approach that includes native plants is fitting for the focus on life found in horticultural therapy. For help in getting started with natives, a couple of good sources of information include Audubon or National Wildlife Federation. Also check for native plant societies in your region.

Best wishes and spring renewal to you all.


HTI Program Profile:
Exploring Interdependence at the Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Preschool

By Kathryn E. Grimes, MAT, HTR, CIG

Photo by Jessica Boysen

A hush fell over the group of active preschoolers snipping pea shoots as a five year old boy extended his finger to a ladybug on the stem, gently inviting the tiny creature to change course and interact with him briefly for a closer look. “This one is different,” he said. “She has opposite colors.” He noticed that this bug, unlike the others they have seen, had a black body with red spots. The educators appreciated the awe of the moment before engaging. Then the ongoing threads of conversation began, intertwining themes of diversity of life, empathy for other living things, gratitude for the benefits of ladybugs, and the way each of us can help our world by planting native species for wildlife and not harming even the smallest of creatures – like this little ladybug.

At the Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Preschool, we engage children ages 3-5 years old and their families in a playful relationship with the outdoor world while providing opportunities for children to develop holistically within an authentic learning environment focused on connecting with nature. As a full-time licensed child care center, the preschool enrolls children from the Dallas Zoo staff and from the surrounding areas of Dallas, providing high quality early childhood education and responsive care Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:30 pm.

When the preschool opened in 2018, nature preschools were gaining momentum for the way they addressed concerns related to gross motor development, attention spans, sensory integration, executive functioning, social development, and emotional development. Now, in a world working to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, they also offer a roadmap for the future of child care, providing a healthy fresh-air haven where children can nurture their need to play, recover from trauma, and receive the psychological well-being that comes from connecting with nature. This connection with nature benefits not only the child and society, but also our natural environment and populations of wildlife that depend on people who will actively make a better world for them through conservation and protection.

Photo by Jessica Boysen

The children’s investigation and inquiry guide our methodology at Wild Earth Preschool. Investigations are sparked by the children’s interest in nature’s cycles, and in particular, the animals and plants at their feet that begin to co-emerge at a given time. In North Central Texas, the children observe as songbirds eat the bright berries on hollies in January; ladybugs harvest aphids from pea shoots in April; swallowtail butterflies metamorphose on the fennel in May; and lizards run for cover under cool grasses in the summer. Living “classrooms,” perhaps better described as natural outdoor spaces on Zoo grounds, provide the canvas for our interactions. The children plant, water, and tend to areas like “Monarch Mountain,” a habitat restoration area; “The Forest,” an acre of open-play space under mature burr oaks and pecan trees; our playground’s sunflower patch, sensory circles, and 3×3’ raised bed; concrete planters in front of the classroom; and the “Pollinator Garden” in our Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.

Photo by: Jessica Boysen

Interaction with our plants and animals is metaphorically intertwined with universal social and emotional concepts integral to the children’s development. We can bask in feelings of love and appreciation for our songbirds’ sweet melody; we dig deeper into gratitude for the ladybug’s help in the garden; we explore hope for the future and confidence with the butterfly’s chrysalis and metamorphosis; we learn strategies for anxiety management as the lizards flee for safety. These metaphors are primarily built by our attentive and caring staff, who wonder aloud with our children about the interconnections they are feeling when they observe and engage with earth and life systems, but they are supplemented with an abundance of hands-on explorations with wildlife and food gardening, art, STEM materials, active games, conservation opportunities, and, of course, a lot of play.

For example, during our recent investigation of community and inclusion, inspired by ants, the children observed the way an ant colony works together for the benefit of the whole. They saw how the ants rafted together in a big rain, to stay afloat until they were grounded. We connected that spirit of working together not only to our classroom family life, but to other aspects of nature as well. We read a book about a diverse group of people working in a community garden; we admired the differences in each potato we prepared to plant; and we grew rye, peas, and potatoes together as companions in a mini-ecosystem. When the children observed ants marching in organized lines, they used natural loose plant material like acorns, twigs, and leaves to explore those lines and patterns more in depth; when they observed ants tunneling, they used excavator trucks to dig into the earth and found roots; when they observed the ants as decomposers, they cut and tore leaves for compost to help them out.

Photo by Kathryn Grimes, HTR

We then extend these understandings beyond ourselves. Since our preschool is a part of the Dallas Zoo, we have the world at our fingertips, and our Zoo visits focus on making analogies between the habitats and animals in our own gardens to the cheetahs, gorillas, poison dart frogs, vultures, and hippos we see there. Every living thing is beneficial in some way. Every living thing is interdependent with others. As the children observed communities of ants in our gardens and play space, they took data on animal communities in the Zoo habitats, writing down the names of animals that live alone, those that live in same-species groups, and those that live in mixed-species groups.

During the middle of our investigation of community, inspired by ants, a crisis hit Texas, and our young children saw first-hand how communities come together to help one another. Already reeling from pandemic anxiety, days on end of freezing temperatures and energy grid failures impacted almost all of our children and teachers in some way. Families ran hoses through windows or filled bathtubs for water supply; they huddled under blankets for warmth in 30 degree homes; they took in neighbors who needed showers or food; and they supported our Zoo staff who slept at the Zoo or braved frozen streets to care for the animals. When children returned after the freeze, they told these stories of resilience and compassion. They made the connections. Plants work together. Animals work together. People work together. Plants, animals, and people work together, and we can all create a better world for one another.

Kathryn Grimes, MAT, HTR, CIG is a graduate of the HT Institute is the Early Childhood Manager at the Dallas Zoo. 

Tips for Practice:
Make a Difference in our World & Get Paid

By Patricia Bailey

If you’ve been actively working as a Horticultural Therapist or are just beginning to take the journey into our growing field you will want to spend a fair amount of time on learning about funding for your services and the projects you plan on creating. 

Spherical flowers depict your sphere of influence as a metaphor for networking to increase your ability to raise funds.

This is not my favorite topic, but unless you’ve decided to live the path of a volunteer, getting paid can be an uncomfortable discussion and one we don’t share enough in daily conversation.  This article aims to share some lessons learned and practices that you may consider.

Making a Difference in the World

Most of us want our work to make a difference.  As horticultural therapists you can make contributions in your local community or far reaching international groups.  Whatever you choose there are countless ways to get paid for your efforts.

Begin to research options in: Local, state and federal government, health care, education, religious institutions, social services, voluntary organizations & humanitarian agencies.

The Federal Government’s official employment site is

This site lists thousands of job vacancies in agencies throughout the country.  I have often found positions within the Veteran’s Administration in the area of rehabilitation and transition.  Horticultural Therapy has had a long history with our vets and much more work to be done.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services site is

This site provides information on job listings around the world, from Hawaii to Denmark. At this writing 815 jobs were available.  The site also gives much detail on community development program grants.

Corporate Funding Streams

Spherical flower

Corporate funding streams from your state may surprise you once you begin to delve deep.  Most financial institutions are required to “give back” meeting the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This federal law was enacted in 1977.  It requires federal regulators to assess how each bank fulfills its obligation to meet the needs of low-moderate income neighborhoods.   Visit your local banks and ask how to apply. 

When discussing grants there is much to cover.  The good news is there is billions of dollars to acquire, but grant seeking and grant applications take time, lots of time.

You may consider becoming affiliated with organizations that already have a development team and a staff of grant writers.  Your goals and expertise may dovetail perfectly within the organizations missions and needs.  

If you prefer to operate as a consultant or freelancer, make sure you are included in a grant as a line item detailed in the program costs.  This is often an area that is overlooked and difficult to introduce at a later date.

New organizations may not be as sophisticated in their understanding of achieving certain goals. Many new foundations have a narrow understanding of the need the foundation is interested in.  They often have consultants and staff to research appropriate programs and businesses that match their needs. You have an opportunity to bring fresh ideas and leadership that compliment their efforts.

Demonstrate Program Success

Non-profits may not have a full understanding of the service you are providing; you should demonstrate why your role is necessary and why it is pivotal to the success of a program. 

When seeking funds from private foundations it has to be relevant and you must be sophisticated in your writing.  Get up to speed. Complete a common proposal form as a first step to flush out your ideas and create your style and brand.  It’s worth the exercise.  

You may also consider hiring a philanthropic advisory firm to research foundations and grant makers on your behalf.    They can initiate a research request for funding data or other information you may be interested in for a nominal fee.  

Another consideration, perhaps join a philanthropic organization.  Your membership provides you the chance to network with individuals, increase your knowledge of funding streams, and learn about opportunities; access researches centers and grant making directories and overall professional development. 

Be sure to promote yourself clearly.  Determine your value added early on, at minimum a stipend. Emphasize and identify your services and goals simply. Always address the criteria if given to you.  Apply to the basic needs of the grant.   Speak honestly from your heart with passion and remain savvy.

Our American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) may be a resource and or a library for providing funders available to its members. It is already a place that values knowledge sharing.  Perhaps they could provide staffing for grant seekers and writers.

My dear friend Sarah Grovesnor, from a philanthropic advisory firm out of Boston is a strong community and social services professional. When I asked her how Horticultural Therapists could overcome the challenges of acquiring funding for our programs she suggests “Ban together to share resources, market yourselves as packages, offer yourselves as a team.”   I love the idea!

In terms of looking for funding, go everywhere, the money is out there. Take a class on grant writing. It’s worth it!

Patricia Bailey is a graduate of the HT Institute, a community outreach horticulturist and horticultural therapist in Newport, Rhode Island.

HTI News & Kudos:

Craig Hospital garden in the late summer.

Stay tuned in the next month for news on the format and dates of all Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes this coming fall! At least one class will be offered online and others face-to-face at wonderful horticultural therapy sites across the country. An email blast will be sent to all on our email list.

Congratulations to HTI graduate, Erin Lovely, CTRS: “I am honored to be a part of Craig Hospitals’ Horticultural Therapy Program and will continue to grow new opportunities for patients in the hospital and in their communities. The Horticultural Therapy Program at Craig Hospital utilizes the garden and plant activities as an environment for patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and brain injury (BI) to achieve their unique rehabilitation goals. The program features an onsite 320 square foot “Green Room” with space and supplemental lighting for growing and maintaining assorted indoor tropical plants, multiple accessible, therapeutic outdoor garden spaces, and a range of modified garden tools, equipment and strategies to promote independence, purpose and sensory efficiency.”