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HORTICULTURAL THERAPY

By Pat Czarnecki, HTR
GreEn'ergy, LLC

The American Horticultural Therapy Association defines horticultural therapy (HT) as “the engagement of a person in gardening-related activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific treatment goals.  Horticultural therapy:

  • Develops the social, educational, psychological and physical adjustment of persons to nurture their body, mind and spirits.
  • Is an effective and beneficial treatment for people of all ages, [cultural and economic] backgrounds, and abilities.
  • Is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan.”
  • Importantly, horticultural therapy promotes quality of life.

There are three basic types of horticultural therapy programs:  therapeutic, social, and vocational.  Measurable objectives are employed in therapeutic programs which are typically administered in a medical setting.  Therefore, the benefits of a horticultural therapy program are measurable and accountable.

An HT program does not require a greenhouse or fancy plant cart.  It can be delivered one-on-one, at bedside with a basket of colorful flowers or fragrant/tactile herbs or simple garden photos from a magazine.  Popular adaptable equipment includes raised garden beds, large container planters for wheelchair access, and ergonomic hand tools.


Horticultural Therapy Projects

Horticultural therapy programs are widely adaptable to people of all ages and abilities.  12-month programs are designed around the seasons.  Gardening and nature-related projects are employed.  Use of live plants, fresh cut and dried/silk flowers for floral arrangements, nature crafts, make interesting projects.  Some examples include:

Winter (December, January, February)

Basic bird feeder

Use heavy cardboard tubes (e.g., center of paper towel roll).  Drill small holes in cardboard tube at top to string for hanging and down tube to insert wooden stick perches (dowels or rustic tree branches) for birds to rest.   Cover tube with peanut butter or flour/water mixture (natural glue) and roll in favorite birdseed mix.  Decorate with dried flowers, leaves, mini pine cones, seed pods, raffia (paper ribbon), etc. Alternate to cardboard tubes:  x-large pine cones. 

To keep squirrels away:  hang with nylon fishing string.

 
Other ideas

*Force bulbs, flowering branches

*Grow sprouts for a salad

*Trade or exchange indoor plants

*For Valentine’s Day make heart shaped ivy topiary using wire shape.

 

Spring (March-April-May)

Plan vegetable and flower gardens 

Use garden catalogs for ideas. Group pictures of flowers, veggies, fruits, and herbs (e.g., by height, color, sun/shade needs) to customize each garden. Plot on grid paper to size. Start seeds indoors. Create plant markers.

Floral bouquets/corsages  

Easy as 1-2-3. Hold a small bunch of flowers accented with a hint of green (e.g., leather-leaf fern). Use half a piece of chenille (pipe-cleaner) to wrap around the stems about an inch below the flowers. Wrap the stems in a wet paper towel; securely cover the paper towel with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in. Hide the plastic with a wrap of florist foil (aluminum foil works too). Decorate with ribbons, doily trim, gift card, etc. Pin the corsage or stand up bouquet in a small vase. Extra watering not required.


Summer (June, July, August)

Garden clip art

Unlimited creativity using a variety of botanicals such as seeds, pods, mini-pinecones, nuts, seashells, dried moss, pressed flowers and leaves, accented with scrapbook notions of paper, fabric, ribbons, buttons, etc.  Craft glue items onto card stock for customized greeting cards, decoupage onto a wooden box, or picture frame the artwork to honor the artist.

Container Gardens

Create accessible garden spaces by placing x-large patio planters in arms reach near sidewalk edges – ideally next to benches/outdoor seating to promote conversation.

Plant different plants in same container, provided they are all compatible (like the same amount of sun/shade, water, type of soil).

Potpourri from herbs and flowers

3 key ingredients of potpourri:  botanicals (dried flowers, pods, leaves, etc.), fragrance (essential oil the best), and fixative (medium that holds the fragrance—we use Spanish moss, since orris root is sensitive to skin).

Create your own potpourri recipe.  Mixing lavender and roses creates an instant calming blend. 

Use drawstring sachets for ease of assembly. 

Garden Themes

  • Butterfly
  • Salsa (tomato, cilantro, hot peppers…)
  • Herbal (culinary, medicinal…)
  • Pizza (tomato, bell peppers, onion, oregano…)
  • Color specific (e.g., red, white, blue)
  • Biblical
  • Garden Tours

Support your local parks and arboretums.

 

Autumn (September, October, November)

Leaf Rubbings (adaptable)

Create beautiful framed artwork, greeting cards, posters...  Collect, examine, and identify leaves with the help of field guides/books on trees.  Notice leaf differences in shape, size, color, etc. 

On a hard surface place the leaf with the smooth side down (veins up), lay stationery or craft paper over the leaf and rub the length of a crayon or pastel over the leaf (remove paper from crayon/pastel for full coverage). 

Customize with hand-written botanical name of tree or plant.

 


GreEn’ergy, LLC – New Jersey-based horticultural therapy and gardening specialists who design innovative HT programs and garden spaces for people of all ages and abilities. Contact Pat Czarnecki at greenergy@optonline.net or call (973) 697-6284.


 

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