Gardening and nature have long been recognized for their potential influence on solace and fulfillment in life. Horticulture therapy specifically taps into this influence by focusing on the benefits horticulture activity could have on human health and general well-being. This practice can be implemented in professional mental health settings, such as by a trained therapist in the clinical practice of horticultural therapy, or in a wider variety of settings, such as in community or residential environments. The American Horticultural Therapy Association supports and advances the horticultural therapy profession.
Therapeutic horticulture programming covers many possible activities. More traditional activities, like preparing beds, sowing seeds, planting, maintenance, and harvesting can be utilized by various age and skill levels. These activities can also be modified to better fit groups ranging from small children to the elderly. Gardening provides connections to nature and the cycle of life.
Plants often give prompt feedback on their quality of life. If their needs are overlooked or if care is overbearing, the plant will give signs. Plant care and maintenance activities can be vehicles for personal growth by developing one’s sense of purpose, self-esteem, and respect for other forms of life. Horticulture therapy programs are growing popular in retirement communities, healthcare and rehabilitation facilities, schools, and correctional facilities.
More information on existing programs can be found by joining the listserv of Horticulture Therapy professionals in North Carolina at Therapuetic-Hort@lists.ncsu.edu. For therapeutic horticulture news, please visit the NC State Extension Therapeutic Horticulture Portal.
Written By: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern