Horticultural therapy

American Horticultural Therapy Association conference

Annual American Horticultural Therapy Association conference. Image courtesy AHTA

2011 AHTA Annual Conference
Recovery & Rehabilitation: The Role of Horticultural Therapy in the Therapeutic Community
October 21 – 23, 2011
Asheville, North Carolina

This year’s AHTA (American Horticultural Therapy Association) Annual Conference will be held in Asheville, North Carolina, from 10/21-10/23. The conference is always chock-full of good speakers and information, and is a great way to meet like-minded professionals in healthcare, design, and related fields. This year’s keynote speaker is Sharon Young, Ph.D., Chief Recovery Program Officer & Clinical Psychologist at CooperRiis Healing Farm.  Dr. Young’s presentation, “How to Become a Recovery Revolutionary,” will open the program at the Crowne Plaza Resort.

The tours are always excellent and highly recommended as a way to immerse yourself before the conference begins. Pre-tours will be held on Friday, October 21, and conference presentations will be on Saturday and Sunday, October 22 and 23, 2011.

Visit the AHTA website for more details and to register for the conference.

The AHTA website is also a great resource for information about horticultural therapy, for those who know almost nothing about it to those who practice and want to stay informed on the latest research and innovations.


Happy National Horticultural Therapy Week!

Eastern redbud. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Eastern redbud, Atlanta, GA, March 2011. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Greetings from Atlanta, GA! Environments for Aging started today (Sunday) and I flew in a couple days early to visit my 94-year-old great-aunt, Stefanie. She embodies a person who is aging joyfully, in a wonderful Continuing Care Retirement Community just outside of Atlanta – Park Springs, in Stone Mountain. But more on that another time. Today, I want to talk about National Horticultural Therapy Week, which started today.

Horticultural Therapy (HT) uses plants, gardens, and other aspects of nature to improve people’s social, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) website, it is “the engagement of a person in gardening-related activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific treatment goals.” And from Rebecca Haller, HTM, “Horticultural therapy is a professionally conducted client-centered treatment modality that utilizes horticulture activities to meet specific therapeutic or rehabilitative goals of its participants. The focus is to maximize social, cognitive, physical and/or psychological functioning and/or to enhance general health and wellness” (from the Horticultural Therapy Institute website).

The Therapeutic Landscapes Network has an HT page where you can find links to relevant organizations (including the American Horticultural Therapy Association, the Canadian HTA, and the German Association for Horticulture and Therapy, as well as the Horticultural Therapy Institute) and resources online and in print. The AHTA publishes a very fine peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, and that alone is worth every penny of AHTA membership. Any designer or researcher involved in this area of the field should really be a member of this organization.

Which brings me to an announcement about AHTA’s fall conference, which will be in Asheville, NC from 10/21-10/23/2011. Call for submission is open until April 15 – have something you think would be interesting to horticultural therapist regarding HT, research, case studies, design, or work experience? Give it a shot! The conferences are always good for learning and networking. For more info, visit the AHTA website, www.ahta.org.

Today one of the tours at Environments for Aging was of Wesley Woods Center, a specialty geriatric care component of Emory Healthcare with a 64-acre campus with an excellent HT program. Because of schedule conflicts, I wasn’t be able to attend the group tour today (which I heard rave reviews about), but I will have the good fortune of getting a private tour with horticultural therapist (HTR) Kirk Hines on Wednesday afternoon. I’m looking forward to finally meeting Kirk in person, after many years of email correspondence, and to sharing what I learn on the blog.

So enjoy this week, National Horticultural Therapy week; take some time to learn about it, perhaps even take advantage of an event in your community or region being organized by AHTA or one of their many regional chapters.

And as always, I’ll be posting “live” from the Environments for Aging Conference on Monday and Tuesday via the TLN Facebook page (facebook.com/therapeuticlandscapes) and Twitter (@healinggarden).

Horticutural Therapy at Wesley Woods. Kirk Hines, HTR/Wesley Woods Hospital of Emoryhealthcare

Horticutural Therapy at Wesley Woods. Kirk Hines, HTR/Wesley Woods Hospital of Emoryhealthcare

Horticultural Therapy Exhibit at Philadelphia Flower Show: “Liberte, Egalite, Accessibilite”

Philadelphia Flower Show AHTA Booth. Photo by Task Force Chair Sarah Hutchin

AHTA Exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Photo by Task Force Chair Sarah Hutchin

Happening now! I wish I could go to the Philadelphia Flower Show (March 5-13) this year. But since I can’t, I can at least publish a post about it, right? Here’s a blurb from the AHTA website:

The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) is delighted to sponsor the Horticultural Therapy Exhibit for the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show. This will be the second consecutive year for a horticultural therapy exhibit in the Show. Last year, the local network group, Mid Atlantic Horticultural Therapy Network, sponsored the first exhibit, drawing in many people and winning two prestigious awards.

The exhibit, in keeping with this year’s theme “Springtime in Paris” is titled “Liberte, Egalite, Accessibilite” (Freedom, Equality, Accessibility). Featured will be a Parisian Potager showcasing ideas for recycling, sustainability, plants, and ways to garden in small spaces . The goals of the exhibit will be to educate the public about how horticultural therapy (HT) can enhance one’s well- being, teach new skills, distract from pain, reduce stress and isolation, to provide fun and meaningful work in a way that is life-affirming.

Gabriela Harvey posted this update on the TLN Facebook page:

“AHTA Exhibit at the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show won “Best in Show” in the Non-Academic Educational Category. A special thank you to the committee and to each MAHTN and AHTA member who will man the exhibit as a volunteer. Special kudos to …Sarah Hutchins, Pam Young, Peg Schofield, Jack Carman and Martha Heinze and Carol Lukens!!! Hope I did not miss anyone?”

And Carol Hutchin, Task Force Chair, updated us on Sunday with this:

“I just heard from co-chair we have also received an additional award, a special achievement award from The Garden Club Federation of PA (education exhibit under 1,000 ft.). People have been pouring through our exhibit all yesterday and today (Sunday)! The response from attendees and several judges, who spoke to us yesterday, was very supportive and congratulatory! A very special thank you to all the committee members ( MAHTN and AHTA) who worked so diligently and well together to create the exhibit, as well as all the volunteers who are manning and maintaining it, the donors who gave us so much to make it come to life, AHTA who sponsored it this year and MAHTN who started it all by sponsoring the HT exhibit in the Flower Show last year.

Congratulations, and thank you!

Next week! Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association Conference

Fiddlehead fern. Photo by Henry Domke, http://www.henrydomke.com

Photo by Henry Domke, HenryDomke.com

National Horticultural Therapy Week is just around the corner (March 20-26), and the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association‘s Annual Conference, “Horticultural Therapy: Connecting People & Plants” couldn’t be better timed.

Friday’s keynote address, “Nurturing the Therapeutic Relationship” will be presented by Lisa Schactman, MS, HTM, CPRP. Lisa is the Life Skills Director at CooperRiis, a healing farm community for individuals with mental illness in western North Carolina. The MHTA conference also features informative breakout sessions, book and product sales, hands-on workshops, displays, refreshments, door prizes and optional visit to the MSU Indoor/Outdoor Children’s Garden. This event is useful to anyone interested in learning how the people-plant interaction brings therapeutic change and improves well-being. Aspects of horticultural therapy can enhance occupational and recreational therapy programs, adult day services, children’s programs, school gardens and programs, community and healing gardens, corrections, hospice, medical care/mental health and rehabilitation settings.

Then on Saturday, MHTA is offering a workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. entitled “Horticultural Therapy: Practical Applications.” Lisa Schactman, MS, HTM will present practical applications of nurturing therapeutic relationships. Participants will also have hands on experience in a session on adaptive tools & techniques.

Visit the Michigan HTA website, www.michiganhta.org, for more information and to register.

Stay tuned for more posts this month about horticultural therapy. Have something specific you’d like to share as a guest blogger? Let us know by leaving a comment on this post.

“A Running, Hollering, Skipping, Playing Place,” guest blog post by Addie Hahn

Topiary at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden. Photo by Max Sokol

Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden, Portland, OR Photo by Max Sokol

In the following interview, Teresia Hazen answers questions by Addie Hahn, a writer who is also working towards her Child Life credential, about the Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden, which won the American Horticultural Therapy Association Therapeutic Garden Award in 2000. Below are excerpts from the interview, and images of the garden by Max Sokol. To read the full interview, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website.

Teresia Hazen, M.Ed., HTR, QMPH is the Coordinator of Therapeutic Gardens and Horticultural Therapy for Legacy Health System in Oregon.

“A Running, Hollering, Skipping, Playing Place: A Conversation with Teresia Hazen on the Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden.”

AH: Could you briefly describe the design process that led to the creation of the Emanuel Children’s Hospital garden?

TH: We did our design work in 1996. Then it was a three-stage process to develop all this, between 1997-99. Two major elements we wanted to address in this garden for kids and their siblings were a therapeutic focus and a restorative focus, or unstructured, independent time. To develop our list of therapeutic requirements, we needed to involve the clinicians. And in these meetings, we needed to hear about the dreams, the aspirations and the clinical goals of each team. We had Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Child Life, Spiritual Care, Managers, Horticultural Therapists and our Landscape Architect. All of those people had very specific goals and needs for the garden setting.

The second reason we have the garden is to provide a restorative setting for every patient, visitor and employee 24-7. So we had to be thinking about some of the elements that were needed for that. One of those turned into the 3-5 niche spots, or bump-out areas where a small group can gather to socialize, provide emotional support or grieve together.

Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden, Portland, OR Photo by Max Sokol

Benches provide a place for privacy and social support. Photo by Max Sokol

AH: What are a few of the ways the garden is used clinically now?

TH: Physical Therapists needed walking rails for adults and for children, as well as some inclines, because you have to learn to walk in settings like this first if you’re going to go back out in to community settings.

Speech and Language Therapists needed items that would lead and encourage children around the garden. So, having a curved pathway encourages them now to go, “What’s around that corner?” A dragonfly sculpture in a tree might be something to watch for and “tell us when you see it.” The dragonfly starts the communication task.

We needed places where kids could maneuver—inclines, declines and a variety of surfaces that they need to manage while working on mobility skills. Kids ride their trikes and scooters for therapy, and we even have a Seguay now that kids with vestibular disorders ride to work toward meeting their treatment goals.

Yellow Brick Road, Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden. Photo by Max Sokol

The "yellow brick road" pathway winds through the garden. Photo by Max Sokol

AH: What do you suggest for hospitals that may not have the funds to hire a Horticultural Therapist, or where staff may at first be resistant to the idea of bringing a professional on board? Are there ways a Child Life Therapist or other staff member could slowly introduce staff to the idea?

TH: Any therapist can add nature-based activities. They could say, “We’re going to integrate nature into our programming.” Anyone can do that. Integrate what you can manage. Consider a 12’ X 12 niche. Do only what you can maintain, and maintain with quality year-round. Therapeutic gardens need to be four season environments.

AH: Can you talk about what you believe is behind the growing interest in incorporating ‘healing gardens’ or smaller-scale, natural elements into hospitals and other healthcare environments?

TH: Programs everywhere are looking for cost-effective ways to help client therapeutic programs do their work most efficiently and effectively.  We’re all working leaner these days–a reflection of the economic setting. These gardens provide choices for all therapeutic programs to help patients connect in whatever ways they need to to aid rehabilitation and recovery and discharge as soon as possible. These gardens are a coping resource and if well designed, can assist patients in their treatment and recovery.

We can also provide that kind of care and honoring even to families that have a baby or a child who is in hospice. The clinical team has assisted parents in supporting the child’s death in the garden. Two nurses will come with the parents. Parents initiate this request and they want their child to experience the fresh air or the sunshine before they die.  Nature is a place of spirituality for many family groups.

Clematis and roses at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden. Photo by Max Sokol

Clematis and roses at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital Garden. Photo by Max Sokol

Addie Hahn is a freelance writer who is also working on obtaining her Child Life certification. She lives in West Linn, Oregon and can be reached at addiethahn@me.com.

Max Sokol is a freelance photographer based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at maxsokol@mac.com

Many thanks to Addie, Max, and Teresia for this excellent post! To read the full interview, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s References page.

A Life Worth Living: The Garden as Healer

Monarch Butterfly by Henry Domke

Monarch butterfly photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

I gave a “walking talk” yesterday on Restorative Landscapes at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries in Beacon, NY. One of the participants, Mike, took the 1-hour train up from New York City, a beautiful ride along the Hudson River. Ten years ago, Mike lay in a hospital bed at NYU Medical Center, recovering from 12 hours of surgery after a traumatic brain injury. As I was driving him back to the train station after the talk, I asked him if he was familiar with the Enid Haupt Glass Garden at the Howard Rusk Institute, which is on the NYU campus. He most certainly was, and he shared the following story with me:

“After my surgery, I couldn’t do much of anything; like a stroke victim, I could barely talk or move. I had been a successful electrical engineer who flew all over the world for work. Now, suddenly, I was a 50 year old man who couldn’t do even the most ordinary tasks. It was dawning on me that I might forever be dependent on others’ care. That suddenly I had become a burden to my family and friends. I was depressed and suicidal. I started “looking at windows funny.” All the more depressing was the fact that even if I wanted to, I probably didn’t even have the capability to take my own life. As part of my rehabilitation, I started going down to the Glass Garden for horticultural therapy. They had us plant little seeds in soil, and water those seeds. Soon after, shoots began to emerge, to grow into little plants. And my life began to be worth something. I could grow something, care for and nurture it. Something relied on me; I was not just a dependent. It was a 180- degree turn. Life was again worth living.”

“In Our Nature,” 2010 AHTA National Conference – Early bird registration ends 9/1!

Fountain at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital Rooftop Therapeutic Garden

Fountain at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital Rooftop Therapeutic Garden (Photo by Naomi Sachs)

The American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) is teaming up with the Chicago Botanic Garden for this year’s annual conference, on October 13-16. The 2010 theme is “In Our Nature,” and will feature keynote speakers Gene Rothert and Linda Emanuel; tours of HT programs and gardens and exemplary school gardens; two pre-conference workshops; and a terrific lineup of education and poster sessions. I’ve gotten to visit Chicago twice in the last year, including the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Schwab garden pictured above (designed by Gene Rothert and Martha Tyson, and also on one of the AHTA conference tours), and this city is really worth the trip; SO many great gardens, and Chicago’s downtown is vibrant and exciting. I attended last year’s AHTA conference in Pasadena and learned a ton while meeting a whole lot of great people. AHTA and CBG both do it right, so this year is sure to be fantastic.

Early-bird registration for In Our Nature ends on 9/1 (which is in less than a week!), so sign up now. More information and registration on the AHTA website.

“Defiant Gardens” and Other Resources for Veterans

Image courtesy of Gardening Leave

For this post, on Veterans Day in the United States, I’d like to share some information about resources specifically for veterans.

While many veterans returning home from war have to deal with physical trauma, almost all suffer from emotional trauma and strain. On the extreme end is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be debilitating for not just the individual veterans but for their entire family and community. More and more research has been coming out about gardening, exposure to nature in a safe setting, and horticultural therapy as effective tools for fighting PTSD and other stress-related problems.

Here are some resources about work that is being done around this issue:
Gardening Leave (www.gardeningleave.org) is a UK charity, founded by Anna Baker Cresswell, for ex-Servicemen and women with PTSD and other mental health troubles. The goal is to combat stress through horticultural therapy activities – growing fruit and vegetables – in a walled garden setting, where people feel safe and protected. The program has been developed in accordance with plans by Combat Stress (Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society).

The Acer Institute, founded and directed by P. Annie Kirk, teamed up with the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network in 2005 to host a day-long conference, “Therapeutic Garden Design and Veterans Affairs: Preparing for Future Needs” at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center. You can download most of the presentations, see photos and movies, and even request the CD, on which all of the information is compiled, from Acer’s website. Since that conference, Annie has been creating a list of therapeutic (healing) gardens at VA Facilities. You can access this list from Acer website’s VA healthcare page (you just have to fill out a short form first). You can also add to the list, helping Acer to keep building this knowledge base.

Another great resource is the website Defiant Gardens, which came from Kenneth Helphand‘s book by the same name. I am so impressed with Helphand’s scholarship, and my admiration goes beyond his consistently good research and writing. In this case, it’s truly inspiring.

What are “defiant gardens?” They are, in the words of the author, “…gardens created in extreme or difficult environmental, social, political, economic, or cultural conditions. These gardens represent adaptation to challenging circumstances, but they can also be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation.” Helphand’s book focuses on “Trench Gardens” on the Western Front in WWI, “Ghetto Gardens” in Nazi Europe, “Barbed-Wire Gardens” created by allied prisoners of war and civilian internees in Europe and Asia in the World Wars, gardens in Japanese internment camps in the United States during WWII, and gardens following WWII.

What I appreciate most about the website is that it includes information from the book, but also keeps going from there, encompassing prison gardens, community gardens, and gardens in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Guantanamo. The most recent post is the text from a New York Times article on gardens in Afghanistan.
And here’s another really nice post by my fellow landscape architecture and blogger colleague Rochelle Greayer: “I Gardened for My Life: The Defiant Gardens of POWs on Veterans Day.” Thanks for the mention, Rochelle. Always happy to inspire:)
And finally, here’s a link from the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (Farmers helping veterans, veterans helping farmers”) to a post about Nadia McAffrey, a Gold Star Mother (she lost her son in the Iraq war) who founded Veterans Village “to provide compassionate healing and living environments for returning veterans damaged by their war experience.” They are expanding to sites in Minnesota and New York, “where land is available for farming and gardening – important components for both the healing and the livelihood for the communities.” Thanks so much to Sharon for these links!

Green Walls for Healing Gardens


Patrick Blanc's 'Mur Vegetal' in Paris -Quai Branly

Patrick Blanc's 'Mur Vegetal' in Paris -Quai Branly

One of the key elements of a healing garden – a garden designed to facilitate and even improve people’s health and well-being – is a high ration of plant material (“softscape”) to paving, walls, stairs, etc. (“hardscape”). More plants, less paving.

And especially if we’re talking about hospitals and other healthcare facilities, which is where healing gardens are needed most, people like a lot of softness and greenery to balance out the hard, sterile surfaces indoors. People also prefer a feeling of enclosure – it makes them feel safe and secure, and can delineate spaces for private reflection and conversation.

So, what better design element than a green, living wall? Patrick Blanc made a big splash with his (absolutely gorgeous) vertical gardens a few years ago, and since then, the market for green walls has exploded. I’ve been surprised at how slowly it’s catching on in the healthcare environment. Seriously, wouldn’t it be great if all of the hospitals and clinics and hospices and nursing homes had soft, green, living vertical surfaces instead of concrete walls and vinyl fences and strange partitions that don’t really work in delineating space?

Image courtesy Annabel Harrold from Echo Studio's post on Blanc

Image courtesy Annabel Harrold from Echo Studio's post on Blanc

Another plus about vertical gardens: They are easily accessible to just about everyone. Whether you’re standing on two feet or wheeling in a wheelchair or a stroller, the plants are at your height where you can reach out to touch and smell, or even to garden in. What a fantastic tool for horticultural therapists!

Here’s an example of a custom-designed wall by Hitchcock Design Group for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Hyde Park, Chicago:

Hitchcock Design Group green wall. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Hitchcock Design Group green wall. Photo by Naomi Sachs

If you’re interested in the confluence of plants and architecture, definitely check out Jason King’s blog Veg.itecture (their tagline is “investigating green architecture.”).

And if you know of any healthcare facilities with vertical green walls – fixed or freestanding – please leave a comment. We’re trying to build a list for the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

Here’s one last image, from a new company called Woolly Pocket Garden Company. Check out their blog. I especially like the posts about the Edible Staircase and the Edible Schoolyard, two programs with kids in Los Angeles schools.

Green wall image courtesy of Woolly Pockets

Image courtesy of Woolly Pockets