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Making Connections Editor:
Christine Kramer

Program Manager,
HT Institute

Summer 2012 Newsletter

Linking People and Plants

HTI Director’s Note: Change a Life: HT and the Value of Education

Rebecca Haller, HTI Director

If you want to be effective at helping people to improve their lives through horticultural therapy, you owe it them and yourself to grow your profession through education. Horticultural therapy is an emerging profession that encompasses many types of approaches and services. Within this diversity of programs and people served, there are core competencies that are essential for effective practice. To gain skills in these core areas, education is key.

In the years since the first Bachelor’s degree was offered at Kansas State University, educational programs have been developed in many parts of the U.S.  Over the years, the AHTA has identified key courses and topics of study, first by adopting a Core Curriculum, later by requiring particular course topics as a requirement for professional registration, and most recently through a work team’s charge to identify competencies with the intention to lead to the eventual development of a competency exam.

So, as a profession, we know a bit about the content of training needed to be an effective HT practitioner. Yet, there are certainly people doing HT without this education. Although it is legal and possible to do so, it is worth the money, effort and time to take classes in HT, Horticulture and Human Services. What I have observed is those who do so have an enhanced understanding of how to most effectively provide HT services. They are in a much better position to: identify specific outcomes, record and communicate those outcomes, provide focused and successful HT sessions, utilize horticultural resources effectively, obtain support, articulate the value of HT, be involved in treatment or care planning, and manage sustainable programs. Education in the field not only prepares a person for practice, but also lends credibility to advance the profession as a whole.

If you are interested in changing lives through HT practice, begin by signing up for a class. Information on courses at the HT Institute is available on our website Additionally, refer to for a complete listing of educational organizations in the U.S. as well as the required course topics for professional registration.

Rebecca Haller, HTM is the director and lead instructor at the Horticultural Therapy Institute in Denver, Co.

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Fall Fundamentals of HT Class at renowned Perkins School for the Blind

Deborah Krause, HTM

Perkins School for the Blind was founded in 1829 as the nation’s first school for the blind. At the core of Perkins’ programs and services are the school programs on campus for roughly 200 children and young people ages 3-22. Horticulture at Perkins goes back to the school’s move in 1910 to the current 38 acre campus in Watertown, MA. At that time, students tended orchards and gardens that provided vegetables and fruits. The contemporary program of horticultural therapy began as a part-time pilot program in 1979. It quickly became a full time program and Perkins hired its first horticultural therapist and coordinator in 1980. Perkins is the site of the first of three fall Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy classes. Enrollment is currently being accepted for the Oct. 11-14, 2012 certificate class held at Perkins.

In addition to the horticulture program, public school students attend short courses and multi-week programs on campus. Educators from developing nations study in the year-long Educational Leadership Program. In the community, more than 650 babies receive early education services in their homes, and Perkins teachers work with almost 300 students in public schools. The Perkins Training Center offers in-service training programs to 5,000 professionals from New England and beyond. Last year our work impacted the lives of over 114,000 people around the world. Perkins School for the Blind is an accredited member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Independent Schools. It is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Education and Mental Retardation and by the Commonwealth’s Office of Child Care Services.

Horticulture benefits Perkins students who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired with multiple disabilities of all ages from many of its programs – infants and toddlers, pre-school, lower school, secondary, deafblind and outreach services for students in public schools. More than half the school’s 200 residential and day students, ages 3 to 22, participate. Horticultural therapy offers a wide range of services including evaluation, sensory exploration, prevocational exploration, vocational training, science classes, MCAS and MCAS/Alt portfolios, recreation and leisure training, on and off campus work, and community service experiences. We consult with individuals and programs in the US and other countries. We currently have two AHTA registered horticultural therapists on staff. In addition, vocational staff, classroom teachers and other therapists bring groups to horticulture classes. Horticultural therapy and occupational therapy interns work with over 25 volunteers.

Horticultural therapy for people who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind means satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. It is a recreational and vocational activity for people of all ages, abilities and needs. The benefits are psychological, social, cognitive, occupational, academic and physical. Plants are chosen to emphasize textures, scents, tastes, sounds, and colors thus achieving a variety of sensory experiences. Assistive devices and adaptive equipment are used with students who have physical disabilities, thus maximizing independent activity in the greenhouse and gardens. This exemplifies Perkins philosophy of helping each child to become as independent as possible. The pride of accomplishment on a student’s face when they grow flowers and make a wreath to bring home to their family is wonderful. In addition, many students use their new skills in off campus work at greenhouses, Audubon Society nature reserves, farms, and florists.

In 2003, the Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center replaced an older greenhouse and teaching center. The Pappas Horticulture Center was made possible by a generous grant from the Thomas Anthony Pappas Charitable Foundation and many other donors. This has allowed the school to greatly expand the horticultural therapy program. The 5000 square foot center houses a greenhouse, which includes a sensory garden with tropical plantings and water fountains, and a vocational growing area. The center also has three classrooms for planting, crafts production, floral activities and science studies.

For several years, in celebration of National Horticultural Therapy Week, we have organized our own flower show on campus which highlights our students and their accomplishments. This event brings people together as a team from all over campus.

Perkins has been closely involved with the Northeast Chapter AHTA, currently the Northeast Horticultural Therapy Network, since its founding. Deborah Krause, HTM, has served as past president, Vice President, Board Member and Boston Flower Show chairperson. Marion Myhre, HTR, has worked with chapter flower show exhibits and workshops. We have co-hosted conferences and workshops with NEHTA and AHTA.

I am proud that Perkins will be the site of the HTI Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy class in October. On behalf of our students and staff, I look forward to seeing many of you and will welcome you to our lovely campus in the fall!

Deborah Krause, HTM is the coordinator of The Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center at the
Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA.

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Horticultural Therapy Program Tips: Teachable Moments

JoAnn Yates, HTR

With any luck our teachers arrive at just the right moment to save us from ourselves. A whole classroom of teachers arrived yesterday to rescue me from a no good, lousy day at The Children’s Center in Winston-Salem, NC.

First to arrive was Janet, a lively three year old with a strong will and special needs. Yesterday her special needs had nothing to do with her hearing and mobility challenges but everything to do with being in a bad mood. She didn’t know I had some special needs of my own. My personal life was topsy-turvy and I was desperately behind at work. Weeds were everywhere in the therapy garden, every plant was screaming for a drink and several visitors were coming to the school in the morning.

I thought I could manage to hide from my teachers and carry on with my long to-do list. Fat Chance! Janet* sought me out and very clearly said in her finest non-verbal way, “People First.” Of course she was right. Using water as an enticement, I taught Janet how to manage her walker and the watering can at the same time and she taught me patience and priorities at work. Janet’s physical therapist looked on with amazement at the distance Janet was able to transverse.

I returned to my watering only to be interrupted by T.C., Janet’s classmate.

T.C. was ready for her turn watering. I found another watering can and we went from drowning the first available zinnia to learning to ‘share’ the water with all the plants. I threw in a few lessons about manners and taking turns and T.C. gladly reminded me that horticultural therapy was “about the process” and not the final product. I must remember to tell my boss that!

Next rolled in Hayden. He softly whispered that he also wanted to water. I paused for a moment, knowing that the watering can would be difficult for his spastic limbs to handle. His eyes seemed to softly say, “adapt”. Of course! I found some sponges, soaked them in water and we gently squeezed the water into a nearby plant. There are many ways to go through life and in that moment Hayden taught me that sometimes we just have to adapt. And if that doesn’t work, we just have to adapt some more.

At this point I completely gave up on getting the garden properly watered. I watched my beautiful teachers delighting in being outdoors, getting soaking wet and feeling pride in a job well done. We listened to the birds sing, gave the bees some distance and breathed in the fresh air. Jay Rice was right. As horticultural therapists “Nature is our Co-Teacher”.

As a horticultural therapist I sometimes struggle with balancing the demands of incorporating an indoor classroom curriculum that supports the students’ needs with an outdoor classroom that constantly needs attention. Luckily, I am surrounded by some of the best teachers in the world. I bet you are too! My tip is to pause and remember that our clients are not only people with goals that need to be accomplished, but also teachers waiting for us to just show up.

* The children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

JoAnn Yates, HTR is a registered horticultural therapist and graduate of the HT Institute. She serves children with special needs and adults with memory challenges at the Children’s Center, a school in Winston-Salem, NC which is part of the Centers for Exceptional Children.

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HTI Program Profile: Garden Therapy on the Grow in Dallas

Susan Morgan

During our first Garden Therapy-on-the-Go session at a memory care residence, I was working with a group of older adults with dementia to make pressed flower art cards when I met Rosie* (name changed). I noticed that she was staring at her blank card. As I approached her, she firmly said to me, “Don’t bother helping me. I’m not feeling well, and I’m going to leave. Someone else could use your help. But not me, I’m leaving.” I encouraged her to simply touch the pressed flowers before she left. Standing up and ready to go, Rosie picked up a small pink hydrangea flower and analyzed it closely for a minute. “My mother used to grow these in her garden,” she said quietly.

We started talking about her mother’s garden, the variety of plants her mother grew, and how she used to help her mother pull weeds as a child. By the end of the session, Rosie had pasted five pink hydrangea flowers in a row – like they had been planted in her mother’s garden – on the front of her card, and she proudly displayed it for everyone during our group talk.

Garden Therapy-on-the-Go, or GTG, is the first outreach service of the Dallas Arboretum’s new Therapeutic Horticulture program. In GTG, arboretum staff travels to agencies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and leads horticultural therapy activities to a variety of audiences. I currently lead the program with trained volunteers assisting during sessions. Planned activities range from flower pounded artwork to plant propagation and are designed to actively engage each participant in an indoor setting.


We also offer A la Carte services, which gives agencies the option to develop custom programs tailored for their clients and site. With A la Carte, I work with the agency to get an understanding of their clients’ abilities, interests, and therapeutic goals and program needs and then develop a program proposal specialized for the clients and agency. An example of this service is our recently completed vocational horticulture program with resettled refugees from Bhutan, Iraq, Sudan, and Liberia. Garden Apprentices, as the students are called, participated in a five-week program which combines classroom lectures with on-the-job training in the Arboretum garden and greenhouses under the direction of the horticulture staff. The primary goal of this vocational training program is to help students apply real world skills in the American work environment.

I often draw upon the powerful yet subtle experience with Rosie as I work with other groups in the Therapeutic Horticulture programs. It has helped to support the positive impact of this program on participants as well as cultivate current and future program development. Through homework assignments and class discussions, my experiences in the HTI program were also an essential part of developing our program to where it is today, and even now I am grateful for the wealth of expertise and support of Rebecca, Christine, HTI staff, and fellow HTI classmates.

Susan Morgan is Senior Manager of Therapeutic Horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum. She completed her HT certificate from the Horticultural Therapy Institute in 2010, and HT internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is working towards professional registration.

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HTI upcoming workshop: Horticultural Therapy and Cancer Supporting the Journey

Karen Kennedy, HTR

Ever notice how people facing difficult circumstances like a cancer diagnosis, side effects from cancer or its treatment, or the emotional struggles encountered in recovery, find solace and comfort in a garden? Articles and books detailing how working in the garden fosters as much internal growth and physical strength as it does the flowers and vegetables being tended are easy to find. October 5-6, 2012, The Horticultural Therapy Institute presents a new workshop designed for professionals who work with people touched by cancer. Horticultural Therapy and Cancer: Supporting the Journey, will explore the natural connection between plants, gardens and people touched by cancer with how and where it fits into treatment plans and improving quality of life. This unique opportunity will take place at The Gathering Place, Beachwood, Ohio, on Cleveland Ohio’s East side and feature two healing gardens.

The Gathering Place, a caring community whose mission is to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer though programs and services provided free of charge, includes horticultural therapy programming in its offerings. One of the highlights of this workshop is the opportunity to experience their healing garden specially designed for both programmatic use and personal reflection. In addition, the workshop participants will visit University Hospital Siedman Cancer Center’s Mary and Al Schneider Healing Garden.

Horticultural therapy is a professionally conducted client-centered treatment modality that utilizes horticulture activities to meet specific therapeutic or rehabilitative goals. The focus is to maximize social, cognitive, physical and/or psychological functioning and/or to enhance general health and wellness. Workshop participants will explore the theory and strategies for using horticultural therapy (HT) for those touched by cancer.

Horticultural therapy is an ideal intervention to address the persistent effects of cancer treatment, including physical and psychosocial issues impacting quality of life and survivorship.

In the garden, there is opportunity to gently rebuild endurance and strength as well as to work on balance and mobility issues. The natural life cycle continually on exhibit in plant-rich environments also promotes internal reflection and discussion on issues important during treatment and recovery. Observations in the garden lead to metaphors and analogies which are used to facilitate improved coping skills. For example, as wire topiary frames to support tender ivy plants are created, discussion about personal support systems follow.

Professionals from a variety of disciplines and settings are invited to learn theories and strategies for using horticultural therapy and therapeutic gardens as an intervention and support during and after cancer treatment. During this two-day event, you will experience a HT session, design your own to take with you, learn about indoor and outdoor program styles, explore two therapeutic gardens, learn about treatment goals, concerns, precautions and safety issues and more. Wellness model approaches will be highlighted as seen in clinical, community and hospice settings. The workshop will include hands-on experiences and visiting therapeutic gardens mentioned.

Cost: $290 (includes materials and lunches)
Optional 1.5 CEU’s available through Colorado State University

Karen L. Kennedy, HTR has provided horticultural therapy services and wellness programming to individuals with a wide variety of disabilities, illness and life situations for 25 years. Since 2006 she has been creating innovative horticultural therapy opportunities for The Gathering Place, Beachwood, OH area to address physical, psychosocial and wellness ramifications of cancer. She is a faculty member of the Horticultural Therapy Institute, Denver, CO. and a frequent presenter at regional and national professional conferences, including most recently the Society for Integrative Oncology, National Alliance for Grieving Children Annual Symposium and the Basal Cell Carcinoma Nevus Syndrome Life Support Network Regional Conference. She has co-authored chapters in the textbooks Horticulture as Therapy: Principles and Practice, (1998), Horticultural Therapy Methods: Making Connections in Health Care, Human Service and Community Programs (2006) and an appendix on HT in Public Garden Management (2011).

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HTI Announces New 2012-2013 Certificate Class Schedule

Christine Kramer

As the Institute wraps up it’s 10th year of providing horticultural therapy education across the U.S. we’re happy to expand our reaches to the Boston area. For the first time the Institute will offer it’s beginning certificate class, Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. In addition the Institute heads back to the San Francisco Bay area and will offer both a Fundamentals class as well as the entire certificate program throughout the area. Colorado will again play host to the second full series of classes as well. A full listing of the entire 2012-2013 can be seen at our website at: California 2012/2013 Schedule PDF
Colorado 2012/2013 Schedule PDF

For more information about classes contact Christine Kramer at [email protected] or 303-388-0500. Enrollment is being accepted for all three Fundamentals classes at our web site,

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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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