Horticultural Therapy- Using Plants to Improve Quality of Life

Remember when it was discovered that talking to your houseplants made them grow greener and healthier? So people who talk to their plants are no longer crazy, they are horticulture therapists! So be a little crazy this spring and find out how plants and plant related activities can promote health and wellness for you or a group in which you are involved. Plant activities can help promote fun, increase social interaction, offer respite and renewal, allow creativity without judgement, allow memories to surface, build community, and help with loss and transition.

Horticulture therapy is actively experiencing nature via gardening processes. It is practiced throughout the world in diverse settings and cultures. You could make a garden that reminds you of the past, like Lilly of the Valley that my mother grew. Or make purposeful gardens like the Victory Gardens of the war eras where folks were expected to be resilient and provide their own food. Plant lemon balm or mint near the front door in a bed or pot to scent the way in and out of your home. Nurture a sweet smelling orange tree or gardenia plant inside. I am crazy about daylilies; I have them in rows and pots. They flower and remind you to fully experience each precious day as the blooms last just one glorious day.  Mary’s Gold daylily has a huge flower, big as an orchid on a prom corsage.

During a time of transition or loss, I highly recommend raking the yard. After a divorce I raked leaves in the back yard and cried my eyes out. Crying and raking just seemed to go together. Moving dirt with any shovel from a small hand spade to a large garden tool is a way to get exercise and work off negative energy. Move it to one location then move it back if you need to. You will also meet new neighbors that way. In the book “The Secret Life of Bees,” a woman worked out her grief by creating a stone wall where she left paper messages. She was outside where God could find her, through nature.

There are courses you can take about plants and plant care The American Horticulture Therapy Association offers information and education. Your local Cooperative Extension Service, available in every state, will have a Master Gardener program that is open to anyone. When I took this course one of the teachers was a grass and turf expert. He was one of the happiest people I ever met, joyful about lawns!  So let’s get happy, buy flowers at the grocery store this week, look at sunflower seeds in the dollar store, and buy that shovel for a dirt moving spring. And don’t forget the grass seed!