The Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy

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Irene Barber, registered Horticultural Therapist (HTR) and coordinator of the Horticultural Therapy Program here at CMBG, knows a thing or two about the intimate relationship between people and plants—sun to soil, seed to root to plant to harvest, harvest to human, human to human. It’s that connection that drew her to the practice of horticultural therapy (HT), defined by Barber as, “the transformation that happens when we work with the earth, how being around plants can improve well-being, and how plant-based exercises can enhance, stimulate, rehabilitate, support, and overcome people’s emotional, cognitive, physical and/or social challenges.”

It’s thanks to this thriving program that the Horticultural Therapy Institute (HTI), through which Irene received her certificate, has chosen to present their four-day course, the Fundamentals of Horticultural Therapy, at CMBG this year. As the first of a series four satellite courses, this class will introduce students to the profession and practice of HT, a treatment modality applicable to everything from community and children’s gardens to healthcare and human services.

HTI, a nonprofit that, for the past seventeen years, has pursued a mission “to provide education and training in HT to those new to, or experienced with, the practice of using gardening and plants to improve the lives of others,” will outline HT’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical goals. Past graduates of the program have applied this training to their work in hospitals, schools, mental health facilities, nursing homes, hospices, public gardens, rehabilitation/recovery facilities, prisons, vocational training centers and wellness programs.

During the class, October 10-13, registered Horticultural Therapists from different states will share how they apply HT in their own settings, and Irene will provide an in-depth tour of the garden space in CMBG’s Lerner Garden of the Five Senses where HT programming occurs, an ideal venue for such a program. According to Irene, this is where HT participants get to “see, feel, taste, smell, and even hear the fruits of their labor as they return throughout the growing season.” The sensory experience is stimulating and the garden is designed to be accessible for people of all abilities.

“I tell participants,” she adds, “that plants, like people, are resilient; they can heal, they can recover, rehabilitate, rejuvenate and prefer to live in communities. If they get stressed, with a little TLC they bounce back. When we think about gardening, we so often think about nurturing the plant, but it’s cyclical. It’s true, but it’s also about how that plant is nurturing us.”

One of Irene’s dreams has been for CMBG’s program to be a beacon for other programs and other gardens. This collaboration with HTI is a step in that direction. “The beautiful thing about HT,” Irene concludes, “is that participants aren’t excluded, but integrated into the community, and that’s huge. We give them the opportunity to break out of their shells, and that’s special.”

Interested? For those coming from afar, HTI has negotiated a group rate at the Flagship Inn in scenic and lively Boothbay Harbor, fewer than two miles from CMBG. More information can be found via their website, www.boothbaylodging.com.

Join this one session, or sign up for the full program and take advantage of the opportunity to see how other gardens put HT programs into practice. HTI’s unique format encourages students to explore, travel and learn about the diversity and versatility of HT. For more information or to enroll, visit www.htinstitute.org or call (303) 388-0500.