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

Summer 2014 Newsletter

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

HTI Director’s Note: Tribute to JC Greeley and the Folks at Anchor Center for Blind Children

Rebecca Haller, HTI Director

Rebecca Haller, Director HTIIn 1990, Denver Botanic Gardens revived a dormant horticultural therapy program. My job was to reinvent, develop and manage the role that HT would play at the Gardens. Beginning the work that summer, one of my first tasks was to create and conduct training for staff, volunteers, and administrators. With the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Gardens wished to continue to improve its accessibility to all visitors. Enter JC Greeley – an enthusiastic and knowledgeable member of the accessibility advisory committee.

This led to more than eleven rewarding years of working closely with JC to provide horticultural therapy programming to the young children from Anchor Center. What a wonderful mentor and advocate she became. Early on, she had already adopted the now common practice of considering each child as unique and full of skills and promise. It was a delight to watch and work with her for those years. Equally delightful was the fun of working with the children! Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to JC on her retirement.

Because of JC and Alice Applebaum (Anchor’s executive director extraordinaire), the Horticultural Therapy Institute continues a relationship with the Center and holds classes at their award-winning school site. See the article in this newsletter by JC about her long career at the Anchor Center.

Three New Fall Fundamentals of HT classes enrolling now

Beginning this fall the HT Institute will once again offer its Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy class in three locations and kick off another certificate series which began 12 years ago. This year we are fortunate and pleased to partner with the renowned Melwood facility in Upper Marlboro, MD to offer the first class of the fall, Oct. 23-26, 2014. See this newsletter for a historical perspective on Melwood.

Drawing on the many resources and program highlights of the area the class will provide education and training in HT to those new to, or experienced with, the practice of using gardening and plants to improve the lives of others. In addition to this class, Fundamentals of HT will also take place at the Anchor Center for Blind Children, (see this newsletter for more about Anchor from long-time teacher, JC Greeley) Nov. 6-9, 2014.

Fundamentals class is scheduled at Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay, CA Nov. 20-23. With its unique format, you don’t need to live where the classes are held. We offer the classes in a four-day intensive format to accommodate those who must travel to attend. Class cost is $750 ($600 for full-time college students with proof of student status). The remaining three certificate classes will be held in Colorado and California. Students can earn college credit from Colorado State University in order to meet the AHTA professional standards. For full class descriptions, schedules and enrollments go to or email [email protected]

HT Program Profile: JC Greeley, teacher of the visually impaired – Anchor Center for Blind Children, Denver, CO

I have never thought of why gardening is important for our little children with visual impairments and their families, but after more than 30 years of experiencing it, I know. It is the same as for me: It is how to connect, and contribute a little bit to the earth which has held true since ancient times. It is one thing to teach about life cycles, time and calendars; to know it requires living it repeatedly, season after season. The abstract appreciative understanding of the world through pictures, words and books comes from living some part of them.

When there is a garden, a plot, or a pot, life’s truths are experienced through natural consequences: tolls of weather, of over/under care, beauty of colors, smells, taste, and touch—the good, the bad, and the yucky. What is learned is that there is pleasure in the planting, watering, caring, and harvesting, enough for a lifetime. There are clear repeated starting, doing, and finishing points, but a natural process in gardening is concept of Next or Recycling/ Restarting; there is seldom a final done. Gardening shows the resiliency of the earth when we do our little part with a pot to get up and going again, after, say, a Colorado hail storm…and maybe a bit that relates to people. It is my dream for these lessons to grow to be part of each child’s life way beyond their time at Anchor Preschool for Blind Children.

My introduction to horticultural therapy began around 1980, when I was asked to represent blindness/orientation and mobility for young children in several projects at Denver Botanic Gardens by Merle Moore, Director. In 1981, the International Year of the Handicapped, I worked with Heidi Fine, to become a horticultural therapist, and to develop an understanding of blindness in the botanists and docents that would be conducting “VIP Tours” in the Conservatory and at Morrison Center at the gardens.

A small group of us spent Saturday mornings for a few months in simulators or blindfolded scouring the Conservatory plants and paths to explore what our VIP friends might find interesting. I can never look at a plant and not touch it or its underside; it is so different from what it looks like. I was happier feeling and hearing a plant than I was looking at it! It was this enlightening experience that led me to seek “the gifts” of blindness in all my teaching. My botanical cohorts knew plants and environments so well that the blindness or low vision factor was easily compensated for through simple techniques discovered for touch, hearing, and use of low-vision aids. These were easily translated to even our littlest VIPs. From that point on I have been hooked on horticultural therapy as the pathway for making gardening accessible and an enduring life-long skill, avocational or vocational, for even our littlest learners and their families.

Merle Moore came to Denver as President of the National Council for Therapy and Rehabilitation Through Horticulture and brought with him pioneering efforts to bring people of all abilities and ages to the Garden for experiencing and learning about adaptive gardening. The intent then and now is to incorporate horticultural therapy into local communities based on the population and therapeutic purposes for its disabled, elderly and young.

In 1979 plans for the Morrison Center were formed to add potential for training therapists and interventionists through a model site for horticultural therapy and since 1983 Anchor students and families benefitted from monthly visits there to use their facilities and maintain a little garden plot complete with its own scarecrow and white cane. Favorite memories from students that are now adults include, the water garden barrels in the greenhouse with a little gecko running around, the season we planted a traditional Mayan garden with tomatillos, corn and pinto beans—with fish heads for fertilizer! But the cats dug the heads up. Of course watering adventures were included.

As the plans for the new Anchor Center at Stapleton evolved, our horticultural friends became involved in the design and now continue the maintenance of Anchor’s Sensory Garden and greenhouse. Additionally the Horticultural Therapy Institute has trained students that now work and volunteer consistently with training children, families and staff in adaptive gardening techniques in our own backyard at Anchor.

Angela Vanderlan, the horticultural therapist at the Center, teaches gardening to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and heads maintenance of the Sensory Garden. The horticultural presence at Anchor has increased community involvement and we have benefitted from multiple grants for materials, field trips, and volunteer opportunities. Horticultural therapists work as part of teaching teams to make educational and therapeutic pursuits meaningful and transferable to home life. Now, much the same as earlier times, watering features are most popular. Dirt, worms, and digging holes for sunflower garden, rolling down grassy hill, and harvesting food rank high too.

What does gardening bring to families and children with visual impairment?

Gardening pulls together the total concepts behind what happens to make a meal. The pizza garden is always a favorite. Try planting cheese with it… Salads are always better when you can choose your own ingredients right from the ground. Taste new foods prepared from raw to different forms like juiced, roasted or dried.

Orientation and mobility in the garden includes knowing how to get from here to there without trampling a plant. It means figuring out how to find how wide a tree is and how deep does a hole need to be. It means sequencing directions, carrying tools, and watering with a hose and a spigot that has to be turned on and off.

Using low vision devices like magnifiers and CCTVs (screen enlargers) brings worms and dirt to life. When children use bug cages, magnifiers and binoculars early in life, they grow up knowing there is “more than their eyes can see” out there but there are tools to help for near and distance assistance in finding details.

Sensory development and understanding: textures, light, wind, noise of insects, weight, vibration, flowing movements, smells good and rotten, hard/soft, tight/stuck/loose, hot/thirsty/sweaty—these are all sensations that cannot be obtained from books or videos.

Child directed exploration with natural materials using hand-under-hand and other techniques to help children regulate tolerance and initiate control when trying to become secure in nature settings, is another example of this.

Engagement with nature and with other companions/family members impact social routines, choice-making, etc. for a group cause. Awareness of time through days, seasons, and circadian rhythms; cycles of plant/insects, etc. of plant/sprout/ blossom/fruit/ die down/regrow are all important.

The understanding of weather and its effects/consequences to a garden.

Ditto bugs and birds.

Instilling safety awareness and non-negotiable standards like “Stop!” Not putting dirt or plants in mouth, etc.

Opportunities to understand and use language through experience that transfers to enjoying books, stories, and songs.

Builds sense of beauty, joy and accomplishment individually and as a family.

JC Greeley helped establish and has taught at the Anchor Center for Blind Children for more than 30 years. She recently retired.

HT Program Spotlight: Melwood: A Horticultural Therapy Pioneer by Kaifa Anderson-Hall

A seed of personal determination was planted in 1963 when a small group of parents envisioned a world unlike the one that existed at that time for their adult children with differing abilities – one that would provide a fulfilling, meaningful life with choice of employment, rehabilitation, community engagement and recreation. In 2013, Melwood celebrated 50 years of making real this vision for countless families and their family members with differing abilities. Melwood has been the formative leader in job training, employment, and life skill improvement, supportive and recreational services for persons with differing abilities throughout the Northeast United States. Its inaugural Horticulture Rehabilitative Therapy Program of producing and selling its plant material to the public back in 1963 would give rise to Melwood’s pioneering social entrepreneurial enterprise model — businesses with the double bottom line of providing revenue as well as contributing to society by providing jobs, independence and enhanced overall well-being for persons with differing abilities — that would be adopted all over the world.
Equally as impactful as Melwood’s seminal contribution to the development and practice of social enterprises was the visionary leadership Melwood provided in the early 70s in the formation of the first organization dedicated to the work of horticulture as therapy and rehabilitation. With the growing recognition and appreciation in the US and abroad for the therapeutic value of horticulture as a treatment modality, Earl Copus, Melwood’s preeminent leader, (along with other emerging leaders working at Melwood at that time, namely Paula Diane Relf), sought to identify and assemble all who were using horticulture to address the needs of those they served (not only persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but many other diverse populations – senior citizens, behaviorally challenged youth, prisoners, persons challenged with substance abuse, etc.). This resulted in the first horticultural therapy national conference in 1972 and the subsequent establishment in 1973 of the National Council for Therapy and Rehabilitation through Horticulture, what is today the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA).

Thus, Melwood has been at the forefront of AHTA’s organizational mission: to promote and advance the profession of horticultural therapy as a therapeutic intervention and rehabilitative medium. Earl Copus served as AHTA’s first president and former Melwood Horticultural Therapy Director Lana Dreyfus was a past president, the founder and president of the former Chesapeake Chapter of AHTA and long-time coordinator of Horticultural Therapy Week. Melwood’s current Director of Horticulture Programs, Sheila Gallagher, CPH, HTR had the most recent honor of representing Melwood at the International Conference on Horticultural Therapy at Feng Chia University in Taichung, Taiwan where she presented on the history of horticultural therapy in the US. In addition to overseeing Melwood’s signature vocational horticultural therapy program and growing Melwood’s HT experiences for more Melwood individuals, Gallagher plays an important role in promoting and advancing the HT profession by presenting at conferences, supervising HT interns and helping to shape a newly formed HT network – the Chesapeake HT Network.


I count myself very fortunate to be a part of an organization with such a rich and proud legacy of horticultural therapy and whose response to the vision of a small group of parents some 50 years ago changed the landscape for people with differing abilities all over the world.

Kaifa Anderson-Hall is a Melwood volunteer, HT intern and member of the Chesapeake HT Network. Her internship has included the revitalization of Melwood’s Learning Garden at Melwood’s Recreation Center for their Camp Accomplish (a camping experience for youth of all abilities).

HTI Kudos and Happenings

The HT Institute congratulates another past student who has recently achieved professional registration. Sally Haskett,HTR is the Horticultural Therapy Program Manager at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG). Sally has been working at NCBG since 2009 when she first enrolled with HTI. Her duties include planning and executing all HT sessions, performing outreach, managing administrative duties, growing gardens at various outreach facilities, and supervising HT interns, occupational therapy field work students, and volunteers. An increasingly significant job is responding to growing numbers of inquiries from people all over the country who want to know more about HT.

She offers a yearly training “Therapeutic Horticulture: An Introductory Workshop” for interested professionals and others. Weekly clients include residents at continuing care retirement communities, people with severe and persistent mental illness, and those with an acquired brain injury. New initiatives Include developing a video to promote and inform about HT and building a Horticultural Therapy Garden. She thanks her classes at HTI for getting her started on the garden design.


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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