Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra
Program Manager, HT Institute

2022 Spring Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note: Take a Class in Person

By Rebecca Haller, HTM

Connect with other students in a collegial and ‘retreat-like’ in-person class. Take advantage of the many little opportunities to converse with other like-minded people over breaks, lunch, and in evening dinners and get-togethers. We have long heard from our students that the relationships forged in class have endured well beyond the study of HT. People benefit both professionally and personally through these connections. Some join their diverse skills to create successful HT businesses. Others stay in contact and continue to support and give feedback to each other. As an instructor, it is very joyful to see this happening on a deeper and broader level during the intensive class days of face-to-face classes and to hear about the support systems they maintain for many years.

HTI is once again offering each of our courses in person as well as online. Students may choose between these two options for any of the four courses. It is well worth the travel to class sites to attend at least one class face-to-face in this human service field. We thrive with those personal human connections.

Program Profile: HT Internship Reflections

By Marcia Lilley, HTR

When I started my journey into horticultural therapy, I didn’t know then that I would take all the steps needed to apply for professional registration as a Horticultural Therapist-Registered (HTR). It started as information gathering to see if it was a good fit for me as a career. The first step led me to take a Fundamentals of Horticulture Therapy class through the Horticultural Therapy Institute. That was enough of a hook to have me sign up for the next class. The second class focused on how therapeutic aspects can be incorporated into the horticulture world.

Marcia and internship supervisor Markus Wullimann, HTR

Pandemic Repercussions

It was two weeks after that the United States shut down due to Covid-19. Over those subsequent weeks and months, my heart would break reading articles of how ER workers’ mental health suffered greatly. In addition to witnessing so much death and suffering, they also had their own and families’ health to worry about. The repercussions of the pandemic went beyond just ER workers; it was also essential workers, teachers, parents, students, the elderly, and so on. Virtually everyone’s mental health was impacted in some way by the pandemic. It became clear to me that whatever work I would do in this field, I wanted to emphasize mental health and wellbeing.

Healing Community a Perfect Fit

Over the course of the last two years I focused on completing the remaining required coursework for the professional registration. I could apply my degree in horticulture from University of Wisconsin-River Falls to meet the required horticulture classes. The last component was completing a 480-hour internship. The place that best fit what I was looking for was CooperRiis, a healing community for those recovering from severe mental illness, located in Western NC. My supervisor was Markus Wullimann, HTR. He structures his three-month intern program in order for interns to move through stages of increased responsibility. By the last month of the internship, the intern becomes the lead, directing activities for the day and overseeing the greenhouse.

Interning at CooperRiis was an amazing experience. The most valuable lessons I learned was…”do it scared”(1). Don’t be afraid to try new things. Try something out of your comfort zone. These were the very things we were teaching our residents and I was experiencing all of this right alongside them. Before starting the internship, I felt intimidated by the thought of taking care of a 30’ x 100’ greenhouse and concerned that I might say the wrong thing to a resident. It was the training I received and observing how staff interacted with residents that really helped me to feel more comfortable and confident in my role. It turns out that working with the residents and seeing their progress became the best part of my internship.

Meaningful Activities in the Greenhouse

Working in the greenhouse was therapeutic in and of itself and helped me to learn the day-to-day aspects of greenhouse management. There’s a wide range of care that happens: watering and fertilizing; integrated pest management; heating, cooling, and ventilation; along with general plant care. Having this ideal greenhouse climate, we could grow microgreens and start lettuce seeds year-round. Residents needed to have a level of focus and patience to follow instructions in order to plant these seeds. Our emphasis wasn’t on production, but rather having meaningful activity in which residents’ could improve their ability to focus and follow instructions. Repetitive tasks like this also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Fairy Garden

During the last month of my internship, I wrote weekly progress notes and tracked residents’ attendance and participation. Staff members were supportive and open to discussing ideas or concerns I encountered. I loved having the hands-on experience with the clinical side of horticultural therapy. It came alive for me when I observed a resident making progress in their recovery.  Sometimes it was incremental changes such as when a resident took more initiative with next steps of a task without being asked. Sometimes a resident took a big leap and faced one of their biggest fears. Those moments gave me such joy realizing that I could play a small part in their recovery process.

The whole internship experience confirmed for me that horticultural therapy can incorporate so much of what I’m passionate about. Plants and nature have always been a haven for me. I’m excited that I’ll be able to invite others into that world and come alongside them in their healing journey.  

(1) Heller, Cathy, “How To Do It Scared – Ruth Soukup,” May 28, 2018, in Cathy Heller Presents Don’t Keep Your Day Job, produced by Authentic,  Podcast audio, 1:05:59,

Marcia is an HTI graduate who just received her professional registration in horticultural therapy.

Fall 2022 Fundamentals of HT classes: Enroll Today

It is not an overstatement that the field of horticultural therapy (HT) changes lives—of both the therapist and those they serve. At the Institute, the experienced faculty provide advice to students entering the field. “The positive changes in the people you will assist will be rewarding and a continual source of inspiration, “said Rebecca Haller, HTM the Horticultural Therapy Institute’s director.  Celebrating 20 years of training hundreds of students, the Institute continues to be at the forefront of education in the field. Nurturing each student as they journey towards bringing a career in HT to life is what motivates everyone at the Institute. Deciding to pursue an education in horticultural therapy is the start of that journey.

Horticultural therapy class in face-to-face format.

This fall the journey begins with Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy offered both in an online or face-to-face format. This class is a pre-requisite for the remaining three classes in the HT certificate at the Institute and is available in three different sections. Students need only attend one section:

Fundamentals of HT
Denver, Colorado (face-to-face)
Oct. 13-16, 2022
Anchor Center for Blind Children: Denver, CO
Deadline for enrollment: Sept. 13

Fundamentals of HT
Online (mountain time zone)
Oct. 27-30, 2022
Deadline for enrollment: Sept. 27

Fundamentals of HT
Online (mountain time zone)
Nov. 10-13, 2022
Deadline for enrollment: Oct. 10

“There is a tremendous need for HT in our communities. If you feel drawn to working with people and plants, trust your heart. The growth in HT work touches everyone, including the horticultural therapist. Know that everyone at HTI is committed to providing a positive educational experience and welcome diversity of people, plants and life experiences,” noted Jay Rice, HTI faculty.

Student from Fundamentals of HT fall 2021 on a field trip to Denver Botanic Gardens.

Not only does the Institute embrace the individual student as they learn the key aspects of HT, but faculty also strive to teach best practices. The Institute spearheaded the 2019 publication of, The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy, the first new textbook in HT in 21 years.

“Take advantage of the rich learning environment that includes both faculty and fellow students with diverse education and work experiences by embracing group work, networking with others, and exploring the carefully selected class sites.  Also, approach in and out of class work with a personal growth mindset.,” said Karen Kennedy, HTI faculty.  Pam Catlin, another faculty member notes, “Go in with an open mind. Even if you have a great deal of experience in the field of health care, being open to the information through the lens of the HT is valuable. Do the homework and recognize it is all work that can be put into action in your future HT endeavors.”

What makes HTI unique?

  • Background and experience of faculty
  • Both online and face-to-face teaching format options
  • Flexible scheduling and locations
  • An emphasis on learning by doing.
  • Varied classroom experiences including group discussions, peer learning, and hands-on activities.
  • Solid connections between students
  • Diverse student population

“Providing students, the necessary tools to do the work of HT is the mission of the Institute and continues to allow students to follow their passion for connecting people and plants, to improve lives, to make a commitment to the training and work, and professionally conduct themselves which will lead to their success,” said Haller.

Zoom Class

The remaining three classes in the HT certificate will be held in 2023 with one section of each class being offered online and one face-to-face. Dates and locations to be announced later this summer.

For more information on the Horticultural Therapy Institute or to enroll in the Fundamentals of HT class go to or email [email protected].

For more questions contact [email protected] or 303-388-0500.

Tips for Practice: Getting Urban At-Risk Youth into the Soil

By Colette O’Hara MSW, LICSW

During the fall and winter, I’ve been working with an extraordinary group of young adults at one of my agencies’ drop-in centers, located in Lowell, MA. This group of young adults fluctuates each week, as is the nature of the drop-in program, but some frequent fliers continue to do their best to show up each week. Holding a therapeutic horticulture (TH) group during the fall/winter months certainly came with some challenges, but with a little creativity, persistence, and some grow lights, we were able to make it happen! Some of the activities we did include propagating various plants, making miniature ‘fairy gardens’, arranging flowers and herbs, growing our own lucky clover, forcing paperwhites, growing mushrooms from kits. Each of these activities was linked to a paralleled therapeutic aspect such as: adapting to a new space, mindfulness, intentions behind our actions, burnout, and selfcare.

This group was funded by the Department of Mental Health (DMH), who also funds the drop-in center. My grant ran from August 2021 to March 2022. By the time you are reading this article our group may have ended, but I have reached out to DMH to persuade them to continue funding a weekly TH group due to the huge success of this group. The original grant started to address the lack of access to green space that is often experienced in urban areas, as well as to meet the needs of the young adults who expressed wanting more nature-based programming. As we all look forward to the warm embrace of the growing season, we began dreaming of what we wanted to grow in a local community garden. I reached out to the two community gardens already established within walking distance from the drop-in center, and one of them offered us two raised beds for the season.

Planting a Soup & Smoothie Garden

One of the things I loved thinking about from the HT classes was the idea of themed garden spaces to increase buy-in from participants. The young adults I was working with collaboratively came up with two themes that I had never thought of before: a Soup Garden, and a Smoothie Garden. We utilized the square-foot gardening concept to collaboratively plan where we wanted to place different plants within the confines of our raised beds. Utilizing this concept allowed for a low-risk, easily changeable, and thought-provoking discussion for many of these first-time gardeners. I sprinkled in some more important considerations like height of plants/sun orientation, if/where they will be stepping into the raised bed, companion plants, watering needs, and realistic expectations of what could be grown in one growing season in zone 6a. Unfortunately, mango trees are not going to do well in Lowell, MA, even if everyone agreed that they were a key ingredient in making the best smoothies. 

After deciding what should go where within the confines of our space, and creating a wish-list of seeds, I went and purchased as many of the identified seeds as I could find. Our drop-in center is a safe place for many of the LGBTQ+ youth in the Lowell area, so, when possible, I chose rainbow variety seed packs to include in our garden space to honor our inclusive community. We planted the seeds together during our final group meeting and discussed the different needs of the seeds we were using; including which ones needed to be direct sown. The group collaboratively chose how many seed-starting pods to allot to each type of plant, how many seeds to place in the pods, and how to label each section. I went over the next steps that they would need as these seedlings emerged and outgrew their space. Although this was our final meeting, I made sure they knew they could contact me with all plant questions moving forward. I’m so excited to get updates on their garden and other nature-based opportunities they explore this growing season

Colette is a recent HTI graduate and Manager of DMH flex services & Coordinator of Horticultural Therapy, Outpatient clinician. She works for Children’s Friend and Family Services, a division of Justice Resource Institute.

HTI Kudos

Marcia getting ready for planting on her balcony.


Congratulations to HTI graduate Marica Lilley, HTR who recently received her professional registration through the American Horticultural Therapy Association. She is planning to start her own horticultural therapy consulting business and would like to offer classes and programming with a special emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.

Coastal Maine Botanical Garden Grant

The HT program at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, ME recently received a 3-year grant. According to past HTI student Irene Brady Barber, HTR, CMBG applied for a “Community Anchors” IMLS award and she said, “The grant is oriented around using our experience and expertise in horticulture as a vehicle for positive change in our community, and to help make horticulture become a driver that creates positive impacts in our region.” The grant will make training available to those working to become practicing horticultural therapists, recognizing the role horticulture plays in cultivating healthy, connected, and engaged communities. CMBG plans to partner with national organizations such as the Horticulture Therapy Institute. Irene is the adult education program manager and horticultural therapy manager at CMBG.