4 Ways to Start Using Horticulture Therapy

Guest Post by Abby Lee Hood

[alert-note]“In joy or sadness flowers are our constant friends.” ― Okakura Kakuzō, The Book Of Tea[/alert-note]

Any gardener will agree with that quote, and if you’re reading this article on Bren’s fabulous website, you’re probably already nodding your head, thinking about the many times you felt satisfied after a few hours of pulling weeds, fertilizing, or planning which bulbs to plant in the spring. While you may already have a garden and experience the healing powers of nature all the time, it’s possible you’ve never thought about horticulture therapy as an occupation or heard of the practice.

The American Horticultural Therapy Association defines therapeutic gardens as “a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.”  Basically, you’re gardening with the purpose of healing yourself or others, thinking intentionally about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Today, we’re giving you a quick, easy list of ways to start including horticulture therapy in your life.

Zinnias
Zinnias in my Bren’s Ohio Garden
  1. Check your local botanical garden for resources. For example, Chicago Botanic Garden has an entire department dedicated to horticulture therapy. They lead events in the Buehler Enabling Garden, host speakers, and offer consultations. This is a good way to learn more, get involved, and check for volunteer opportunities! Follow your garden on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  2. Some reading. The AHTA has a list of suggested reading here. These are books they recommend for learning about the therapy. However, there are tons of free online resources! A quick search on Pinterest brings up articles like this one from Wonder Baby. It’s a list of things visually impaired and other-abled children can learn from gardening: hygiene, taking turns, playing with textures, and more!
  3. Get your hands dirty. Start a simple project in your home, like balancing stones in a sand or zen garden. In this video, horticulture therapist Libba Shortridge compares balancing stones to balancing parts of your recovery. Even taking cuttings of a plant to transplant can be therapeutic if done mindfully.
  4. Volunteer in a community garden or start your own. Many neighborhoods have community gardens that raise awareness about the environment, support efforts to feed hungry people, or host programs that help troubled youth. Is there one near you? I talk a lot about Chicago because that’s where I live, and there’s a website to find gardens in the city. If you don’t live near a community garden, start one! Choose a cause you want to focus on, like giving other-abled residents the chance to grow vegetables, and start making a difference.

[alert-note]Will you turn horticulture therapy into a hobby, something more? Do you already practice this healing art? Let us know in the comments below!

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