Making Connections Editor: Christine Capra, Program Manager, HT Institute

Fall 2016 Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note: Heartfelt Gratitude

By: Rebecca Haller, HTM
rhaller (1)

In September, we asked our HTI students who have earned their certificate to participate in a one-time survey. While we’re happy that we hear from many of you regularly, this survey was a more formal way for us to measure how your HT training has served you in your career aspirations.

We were delighted with the responses we received! More than 30 percent of the graduates who were emailed a survey responded.  We’re all busy, and we appreciate those of you who took the time to participate in the survey.

We plan to use your feedback to help graduates and new students prepare for the job market and secure funding for HT programs.  With all the encouraging feedback we received from the survey, we recognize that there’s always room for improvement and the world of HT is constantly changing. Your responses will help us improve our curriculum and offer additional advanced training for HTI graduates.

Our goal is to provide all of our students with the best training and HT tools possible so you can continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the people you work with and in your community.

As the Thanksgiving season draws near, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our students, faculty and partners for your support during the past year.  Your emails and stories inspire us all.  We value your candid feedback and hope you’ll continue to share your HT experiences with us.

Horticultural Therapy Tips for Practice: Creating Progress in a Group with Diverse Needs

By: Erin Lovely

Anchor Center for Blind Children provides early intervention/ developmental education services to infants, toddlers and preschoolers with vision impairments. Currently, Anchor Center serves 195 children in the state of Colorado through center based programming, home visits and rural outreach. The center based programs include an infant, toddler and preschool program. Families attend programming with their infants and toddlers and learn how to encourage their child’s play, mobility, and communication skills while maximizing the use of any vision the child may have.anchor-center-girl

The preschool program teaches the Expanded Core Curriculum. This curriculum assures the unique needs of students with vision impairment are being met while helping to build the foundation of skills that sighted children learn incidentally or through imitation. This requires careful attention to adapting/modifying things in the school, home and play environments. This environment is created and facilitated by a team of teachers of students with visual impairments, teaching assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, a music therapist, and a therapeutic recreation specialist.

The garden at Anchor Center is used by all the children and families while focusing on providing horticultural therapy for the preschool program. Each class consists of 4-6 students and are grouped together with similar needs. Many of the students at Anchor Center have multiple diagnoses and may require 1:1 staff assistance, use wheelchairs, dual sensory loss (deafblindess), sensory processing disorder, decreased communication, high levels of stress, and high social-emotional needs. The varying needs of each class and each student creates a challenge to plan and implement therapeutic outcomes. Here are a few tips to keep the activities meaningful and moving forward with individual progress.
Tip 1: Have clear written program goals.

Create program goals that align with your organizational mission, are age appropriate, visit them often and instill them into every session. I do not document on program goals, these I just do while teaching;

  • To teach concepts of nature, gardening and the weather
  • To help students be a participant in their own lives
  • To create positive mental health (social-emotional)

Tip 2: Work with your team to develop one progress goal for each group.

I work with the teachers and therapists to create one classroom goal and then develop an individual objective for each student. This method of goal planning helps to organize each students’ progress towards one main goal while keeping group cohesiveness and allowing all team members to assist in the facilitating of student progress and independence during HT sessions and in every aspect of the school day.


Tip 3: Keep activities garden related.

Keep the activities seasonal, “chore-like”, and go outside whenever possible so there is always a purpose to why we are doing the activity while making sure it is play based and kid directed. This teaches the students that they are making a direct impact in the garden and the plants we grow. When they ask why (and they always do), I have a meaningful answer that ties into their experiential learning.

Tip 4: Implement the same activity for all groups.

Each class will participate in the same HT activity but with modifications to meet the specific needs and classroom goals. For example, if the project is raking up leaves and the classroom goal is to increase tactile touch then the activity will be to bag up the leaves using their hands. Using the same project, a class working on mobility & orientation will rake up leaves, put them in a bucket and then carry the buckets while navigating their way to a different area of the garden.

Tip 5: Encourage independence

Use modifications and adaptations whenever needed to provide the most independent environment possible. Remember to allow “wait time” or processing time after giving instructions, limit environmental noise and other stimuli, assist when needed and then back off or “aide and fade”.  Provide clear and direct beginnings and endings to sessions to help assist with transitions. Lastly, keep in mind “less is more”.

Erin Lovely, CTRS is the horticultural therapy coordinator at the Anchor Center for Blind Children in Denver, CO and is a past graduate of HTI. The Anchor Center is the class site for Fundamentals and Techniques classes.

Bounty of graduates and new students in fall classes

HT Management class in Fort Collins, CO

HT Management class in Fort Collins, CO

The three Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes offered this fall by the HT Institute brought a bounty of new students to the certificate program. Nearly 95 students attended one of the classes in either Denver, CO; Madison, WI or Half Moon Bay, CA. Many of the students will go on to complete the certificate program offered in both Colorado and California in 2017.

In addition over 50 of students completed the HT certificate program in either Fort Collins, CO or Wilmington, NC. As part of their final capstone assignment students completed a full program proposal which many have already submitted to administrators. We are proud of and applaud all of these exceptional students as they go forward and become leaders in the field of horticultural therapy.

HTI Happenings: Focus on HT Videos

HT Management class in Wilmington, NCWe have frequently been asked for effective tools to communicate the benefits of horticultural therapy and to influence decision-makers about the advantages of a professionally run horticultural therapy program. In response to these requests, beginning in 2007, the Institute started producing a series of educational videos. Your tax-deductible donation will assist us to develop a quality product that inform and inspire those interested in promoting and sustaining human health through the medium of gardening. The first two videos, highlighting youth and elders in the garden, illustrate the power of the garden for health and well-being. Find the videos on our website at

Two HTI Students Receive National Awards:

Susan Morgan, HTI graduate and therapeutic horticulture practitioner in Dallas, Texas, received the 2016 Publication Award by the American Horticultural Therapy Association at the recent conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Susan shares this recognition with Lesley Fleming, HTR, and author of Therapeutic Horticulture: A Practitioner’s Perspective (2016), for their collaboration on the blog, Since 2014, eat|breathe|garden is an emerging blog devoted to promoting the benefits of the people-plant connection and offering a variety of free and accessible information for horticultural therapy practitioners, allied health professionals, horticulturists, avid gardeners, and the general public. You can check out therapeutic horticulture activity ideas, information on gardening and the people-plant connection, and much more on the blog at

In addition, recent HTI graduate, Travis Slagle, M.A. accepted the national award in Therapeutic Garden Design from the American Horticultural Therapy Association at the 2017 national conference. Travis is the HT director at Pacific Quest in HI. Travis noted, “The greatest part of this award is knowing that our gardens are saving lives, re-invigorating families, and changing the face of wilderness therapy.  Receiving this award is a humbling reminder that hard work pays off, and why healing gardens belong at the center of our communities as a reminder of our own resilience and of life’s endless possibilities.”

travis-awardPacific Quest’s innovative Sustainable Growth™ model continues to pioneer a cutting-edge approach to outdoor therapy. Pacific Quest offers a holistic yet highly clinical approach to treatment, which goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy and teaches sustainable life skills. Students live on an organic farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. Through this experiential environment, Pacific Quest provides an individualized approach, empowering students to make healthy choices for themselves, their family and their community.

The AHTA committee received many testimonials and included the following:

 “Our daughter was lost, struggling, and unhappy. She reconnected to nature and her healthy self through Pacific Quest’s horticultural therapy program.  Simple and hard work in nature helped her strip away unhealthy behaviors and unproductive patterns, and empowered her to understand how good process leads to good outcomes. In the garden, she learned how to work with others, delay gratification, tend weeds (psychological and natural), embrace discomfort, and envision a positive future. She developed resilience and sense of self by getting a little dirty and doing a little hard work. Every day, PQ’s guides and therapists helped her see how her work was helping her heal. We will be forever grateful to PQ and that patch of dirt for helping our daughter get past a dark period in her life.”adolescent-in-nalu-garden

Upon his return from the AHTA conference and award ceremony, Travis shared, “Looking back to when PQ first began, we spent most our days hauling rocks and burning piles of dead grass to clear the jungle to make space for a visionary garden that would one day become the epicenter of our values as an organization.  As we cleared the land, one by one we planted fruit trees and built garden beds that have become a beacon of hope and inspiration for so many people.  I feel honored to be a part of it!” Congratulations Travis!

Carolina’s HT Network — an Active Group

By: Catherine Crowder, HTR

The Carolinas HT Network (CHTN) is an active group of individuals in North and South Carolina, southern Virginia and Eastern TN who participate in horticulture therapy or have in interest in learning more about the profession. The group was reformed in 2012, but originally was an official AHTA chapter and has a rich history of more than 25 years. Several members remain from the former AHTA chapter, but the new networking group has a new energy with varied interests in HT.

chtn1CHTN is informal in that there are no board members, no elected officers and no annual dues. Members take turns creating and hosting programs. The networking group targets two meetings a year. Programs typically include a Friday afternoon tour followed by dinner. Saturday is more hands-on. Often there is a small fee to participate in the weekend activities.

There is never a lack of exchange of ideas. Beth Bruno, Horticultural Therapist at the Life Enrichment Center, Shelby, NC and a HTI graduate is always inspired by the work others are doing and “the encouragement we give one another and the new things we learn each time we are together. I always come away with a renewed commitment to my work and the valuable life-enriching changes it makes in the lives of others.”

The first meeting of 2016, hosted in March by members in the Triad, Greensboro/Winston-Salem area, focused on connecting with our roots. Through exploration and contemplation of the four public gardens of Greensboro, participants were rejuvenated with the sights, sounds and smells of spring.  Programs are open to anyone interested in horticultural therapy (HT), and at this meeting a mother who had an autistic child came to learn more about HT after seeing her son pick-up sticks, put them in the ground and water them.

In August CHTN was in the Research Triangle, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, The focus was using HT in a farm setting.  Four area farms were visited:

  • The Farm at Penny Lane (adults with mental illness and substance abuse issues)
  • Herb Haven (medicinal plants)
  • Transplanting Traditions (SE Asian refugees)
  • Ramblerill (one-one HT with adults)

chtn2Horticultural Therapy programs are robust across the Carolinas. From farms for varied populations to hospice settings, horticultural therapists, many trained by HTI are actively engaging in connecting people and plants. Member Katie Stoudemire and her work with UNC Children’s Hospital was recently highlighted in the Huffington Post. Awareness of HT and the benefits of connecting with nature continues to grow. Over half of the attendees at the August meeting had never participated in a CHTN program. Many of the new faces were either master gardeners or current HTI students.

CHTN’s next networking event will be held in Shelby, NC at the Life Enrichment Center. The date is yet to be determined, but connect with us on Facebook and start making new connections.


View the recording of a recent live webinar:

Topic: Entering the Profession of Horticultural Therapy

You will learn:

  • What is horticultural therapy?
  • Where is it practiced?
  • Who does it serve?
  • How can you receive training?

View the webinar here


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