Annual Giving: Inspirational Stories

Superstar HT Student!

T. is a high school student with significant special needs whose growth in horticultural therapy has given him the opportunity to shine in his community. When he first came to the Monarch School of New England in 2015, his behavioral challenges required two staff to be with him at all times. He refused to participate in structured activities, with the exception of horticultural therapy. At risk for running away, he was unable to go to the garden, so horticultural therapy was provided at his classroom desk. Gradually, he safely transitioned to join his peers for group sessions in the garden. His love for watering plants soon expanded to other skills and interests, enabling him to become a special garden helper to the horticultural therapist during his free time. Now, four years later, based on his interest in horticulture, T. is working with a job coach at a local community garden center, where his enthusiasm is appreciated by staff and customers alike.

Kathy Perry, MA, OTR/L, HTR
Occupational Therapist and Horticultural Therapist
Monarch School of New England

Most of the usual activities don't interest television, no bingo, no arts and crafts. He's not much of a talker, however, when a bustling cart of plants and pots, essential oils and seed catalogs enters the room, he is the first to exclaim "what are we doing today?!" I have learned he loves the smell of fresh cut grass, the warmth of a hot summer day, and all the joys a bright red rose brings. 

Our first summer together, he chose a tomato to grow, knowing exactly what he was craving. From seed to seedling, moving out to the garden and seeing its first blooms — he asked about it, talked about it, watered it with care. When the first fruit finally ripened, we set out to the garden together with a brown paper bag of supplies. With tears in both our eyes, we shared the most delicious BLT. 

-Therapeutic Horticulture participant, Regeis Care Center, Bronx, NY

Gerry Leigh Sherman
Horticultural Therapy Certificate - New York Botanical Garden
Owner of HELLO, DAHLIA! Horticulture

Emily Blumstein
Student, Rutgers Horticultural Therapy Certificate Program

In a deep squat, head down, sun beating on my sweaty neck and back, I massage the soil. It is the best lesson in mindfulness I can think of. It may not be therapeutic for my knees, but the process of growing and caring for plants is absolutely cathartic. I am in nursing school and I love it! Healthcare is my vocation and passion, but I see a lack of holistic treatment options in the field. I am so excited to be able to educate and share the empowering healing modality of Horticulture Therapy with my fellow healthcare providers and patients.

Living and learning in the “Garden State” has taken on a whole new meaning since starting the HT program at Rutgers. From volunteering on the student farm to exploring the Floriculture greenhouses on campus, the resources available to HT students are endless. One of the courses I am currently taking, “Plant People Relationship” with Gary Altman, places plants into a cultural context. The roles plants and agriculture play in our day to day lives vary greatly in different communities and populations. Especially working in the field of behavioral health, I see a need for HT in my patient’s treatment. For patients struggling with symptoms of depression, the tangibility of HT is extremely grounding. With the expansion and integration of Horticulture Therapy in medicine, I see a future where patients can feel more productive, mindful, and healthy. 

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