By Laura DePrado, Horticultural Therapy Practicioner
This month National Horticultural Therapy Week will be celebrated March 17– 23, the week of promotion of Horticultural Therapy, and the good work of horticultural therapists nationally and locally. This week also germinates the official start of Spring. Horticultural Therapists are trained to evaluate the abilities and needs of each individual (referred as the client). By matching the person’s interests, skills and needs with appropriate plant-related activities, the therapist can help the individual reach goals. Two examples might be the goal of increased muscle strength, or improved socialization skills. Horticultural therapists are typically part of a treatment team. In a clinical setting, for example, the team would consist of a clinical or medical director, a counselor, a social worker. In a rehabilitative setting the team might consist of a doctor, orthopedic, a nurse, an occupational or speech therapist, social worker or counselor. Treatment teams vary depending on the client and the setting.
Activities may be year round, indoors or outdoors. Activities may take place in a greenhouse, a garden, or in a designated space that is accessible, barrier-free and designed for maximum safety, participation and development of the individual. Activities may include the growing of plants, nature crafts and floral design, garden maintenance from weeding to watering to pruning. Horticultural therapists provide any needed support including adaptive devices, tools, or physical assistance.
Horticultural therapists are trained to use plants and the cycles of nature to teach life skills. Nature and plant life cycles have built-in and unending benefit to people. In working with clients therapists explain and implement social and psychological concepts. Concepts like nurturing, responsibility, the importance of strong “roots” and the value of rejuvenation.
Plants are beautiful, responsive to care, and productive. The person who takes care of the plants can come to perceive his/or herself as successful, nurturing, productive and creative with gifts to share.
Here are 10 things you can do to connect with nature safely.
- Place fresh flowers where you can see them.
- Look through seed catalogs.
- Start herbs for your kitchen windows sill.
- Take a walk through an arboretum or park
- Decorate a flower pot
- Visit a local greenhouse
- Start plants from seeds
- Make a pinecone bird feeder. Place seeds in coffee filter. Brush pine cone in peanut butter. Roll over the seeds. Hang outside. Bird activity is guaranteed to keep them busy and you occupied watching them.
- Cut stems from flowering shrubs and trees outside. Bring them indoors, place in water, keeping it fresh and force the blooms.
- Visit a local store and explore all of the different seed packets, and starting kits available.