Sunday, October 11, 2009

Horticulture Therapy Added to HOR Curriculum Fall 2009...

Horticulture therapy utilizes plant culture activities/techniques to deliver benefits to a wide range of individuals exhibiting various forms of trauma, disability, or disadvantage. The therapeutic benefits of plants (as medicines) have been known for ages. It was a relatively recent discovery, however, that the process of working with plants also had the potential to improve human existence. Horticulture therapy is a recognized tool for use in improving the cognitive, physical, psychological, and social functions of individuals with a variety of disadvantages (e.g., spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, MS and cerebral palsy, mental illness, mental disadvantage, autism, and substance abuse).

The Horticulture Technology program at HCC recently added an Intro to Hort Therapy course (HOR 154) to its curriculum. Students enrolled this fall are being introduced to a series of projects/activities for use in a horticulture therapy setting.

A recent horticulture therapy class activity involved mounting staghorn fern (Platcerium bifurcatum) onto wood panels for use as living wall ornaments. Staghorn fern, being a natural epiphyte, is well suited for use in the project. In the process, a mound of soil is centered on a piece of wood; a fern plant is placed on top, surrounded with sphagnum moss, and then wired in place. Wires are wound between nails previously arranged around the mounting area. In time, the plant will generate a sterile frond (a shield-like leaf) that will adhere it to the wooden base and also obscure any wires/hardware that may initially be in sight.

Therapeutic benefits that can be procured from this activity include problem solving (which step comes first?), motor skill improvement (the wiring can be tricky), and self esteem improvement (I just made something worthwhile!). The plant benefits, and so does the individual.


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