“I Love Plants”
I always have. As a child I spent countless hours exploring the woods and creek near our home. Although we moved a few times, I would always seek out and find my nature get away within our new neighborhood. Children do that. They seek out places to explore and learn. They seek out new experiences. As an adult I need to do that more. As I grew up, I was much too busy to spend time in nature, but I could always feel and hear the call.
Eventually after many years, I woke up and listened to the voice of real living. I started experiencing nature again. That’s when after a bit of time considering new career choices, I began pursuing a degree in Horticulture. Soon after, Horticultural Therapy found me and I enrolled at the Horticultural Therapy Institute. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. As a student at HTI before graduation, I started a weekly Horticultural Therapy program for Catholic Nuns. This facility served a wide range of individual abilities from independent living to Hospice care.
Some of the goals of our program included increased social interaction with an emphasis on discussion between participants and improving physical abilities while focusing on endurance, fine motor skills, walking, and cognitive skills–especially memory recall. We made great use of their courtyards and patio areas. Container gardening was very popular. The Sister’s were always open to new gardening ideas and eager to help. This was an amazing group to work with and I will always remember them.
The training I received from HTI helped make this program beneficial for everyone involved. I continued this program well after graduation from the Horticultural Therapy Institute in April of 2006.
Zimmerman Scented Garden
In May 2007, I accepted a full time position within the Horticultural Therapy Program at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I currently work with my supervisor and many dedicated volunteers. We interact with many different groups with varying ability levels. One of our very successful programs is the Soule Scent-sational Senior Group. It is a hands on educational and therapeutic program held at the Missouri Botanical Garden within the Zimmerman Scented Garden.
From May to September, participants aid in planting annuals, herbs, and regular maintenance in the garden. Benefits to the participants are: social growth, exercise, retraining of muscles, stress reduction, and growth in coordination, balance, endurance and continuing education. This garden has ground level and raised beds for planting, containers of various heights, a water feature, an arbor, and several benches for seating. The Zimmerman Scented Garden is an amazing asset to our HT program. We use this location year-round to complement all of our other programming with other groups.
Southview School – Special School District K-12
Our Intergenerational Programs connect past, present, and future Senior Living Facilities: We visit and facilitate programs on a daily basis for seniors who can’t come to the garden. Program staff and volunteers bring the garden to them. At various senior living facilities we provide creative and stimulating activities and programs to further enrich the physical, mental, and social lives of participants. Southview School – Special School District K-12: At Southview we work with four classrooms, three with children with autism and one with children with multiple disabilities. We rotate our visits during the school year, one time we go to their location the next time they come to the Botanical Garden. We are also developing ideas to continue programming during summer school, hoping to make this a year round program.
The school has great facilities at their location for horticultural therapy programming. They have a greenhouse connected to the school building, an outdoor garden area with planting beds, a wooded walking path behind the school grounds, and staff that is eager to participate. We have students with many ability levels to consider when developing activities. Some of the students are verbal, some non-verbal, some read. Others do not, and some use a wheelchair or need assistance walking. Some student’s goals are improving hand-eye coordination, social skills, language skills, and developing vocational training.
I have learned so much working with and developing programming for the classes. Every visit teaches me something new–especially adapting activities at a moment’s notice to accommodate the needs of the classroom or individual. We are very excited about this program and the bright future it holds.
Another group we work with on a continuing basis is FASTT. This stands for Foundation of Autism Services Today and Tomorrow. FASTT is a non-profit organization founded to establish vocational and employment programs for adults with autism in Southern Illinois. Their mission is to improve the quality of life and enhance opportunities for personal, educational and vocational growth for adults with autism in Southern Illinois using a farm-based program.
As with Southview School we rotate our visits, one time we go to their location, the next time they come to the Garden. We have ten participants with varying ability levels. We have partnered with the staff at FASTT and created a year-long program using nature and gardening activities to enhance participants lives and achieve individual personal goals. Their location has a vegetable garden, propagation greenhouse and a prairie and walking trails. In the future FASTT has plans to develop a 42-acre site for an agriculturally based vocational training and employment program for adults with autism. This is a great group to work with.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital:
We partner with Gary Wangler and his staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital on various programs throughout the year. One of the programs is a Healthy Eating Habits/Vegetable Gardening program. The objective is to educate the children and their families about growing their own food and the health benefits of vegetables and fruit. We grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and beans in containers right in the garden. We want to show how easy it can be to get started in a container even if they don’t have much growing space at home. Gary has a 8000sq ft roof top garden to host this project in addition to his extensive HT program at the hospital. At various times throughout the growing season we conduct activities based on goals for that visit. The response from the children and their families has been positive and working with Gary has been wonderful.
Multiple Sclerosis Society:
Recently participants have been enjoying HT sessions at their facility and at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Adults, ages 35 to 50, participate in hands-on projects that are designed to stimulate the senses, increase self-esteem, and teach new skills. We also discuss ways to adapt tools and methods to individual ability.
Other groups we have worked with: Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center: We worked with patients and their families during monthly sessions doing various plant or nature based programs. Gateway Greening – City Seeds Program: This is a wonderful organization doing great work here in the St. Louis area. My supervisor conducted Nature Journaling activity with this group. The City Seeds mission is to foster self-sufficiency in addicted and chronically mentally ill homeless; increase production and distribution of locally grown fresh food for low-income residents, and provide nutrition and food preparation/preservation programs. The scope of the project is to conduct a jobs training program for homeless battling drug addiction and mental illness; help people grow their own food; and create markets for local farmers by delivering their produce to low-income neighborhoods Paraquad- Independence for People With Disabilities: A not-for-profit that aids in creating an independent life for individuals with disabilities. This is an organization that is always a joy to collaborate with during their visits.
I am also part of an HT Networking group here in the St. Louis area. Our group started with four people a couple of years ago and has grown to over twenty-five members. Eventually we would like to start an AHTA Chapter. Our Networking group also promotes an HT Awareness Day that takes place during the National HT Week. The past two years the event has been held at the Missouri Botanical Garden. They have been very successful.
Horticultural Therapy Awareness Day
My job at Missouri Botanical Garden gives me the opportunity to experience many different groups with varying abilities. Each day puts me in touch with some aspect of horticultural therapy. Often I am working directly with program participants. If I’m not actively engaged in a program, I am busy creating and developing future activities.
In addition to the help we get from participants, the Zimmermann Scented Garden keeps me busy year-round with planning, planting, watering, and maintenance. It gives me a little horticultural therapy everyday. I also help maintain the education greenhouse. We use this greenhouse year round to start seeds, cuttings, and maintain stock plants for programs. I am so lucky to be a part of such a great institution.
The education I received at the Horticultural Therapy Institute has been extremely helpful to me. I use some aspect of my training every day. The faculty at HTI is experienced professionals that care immensely about the success of their students. Rebecca and Christine have been a great support in all of my HT endeavors. I’m looking forward to continuing the great work of our HT program here at the Missouri Botanical Garden.