Plant care providing horticultural therapy

Luke Stoffel

Horticulture is a growing field in the United States, but many may not realize that horticulture is also gaining support for therapeutics.

The interest in horticulture therapy has grown tremendously in the past 25 years, said Linda Naeve, of Iowa State’s horticulture extensions department.

Horticulture therapy utilizes no medical stimulants or drugs, Naeve said. The therapy involves the activities and tasks that surround the care and growth of a plant.

Such activities enhance physical exercise, mental thinking and an increase in one’s physical dexterity, she said.

An example of horticulture therapy is happening right now in Ames at the Grand Avenue Care Center.

This local nursing home offers its residents a wide variety of activities, including, said Social Director John Anderson, horticultural therapy.

“Horticultural therapy is a very positive experience for the residents of Grand Avenue,” he said.

This type of activity enables many to get involved, he said. Last year the involvement extended city wide when many residents participating in the therapy entered their plants and projects in the Ames Garden Show.

Anderson said many of the entries were houseplants that were grown directly in the residents’ rooms.

Further involvement is offered to the residents through garden beds. Anderson said the beds are an ongoing four-year project. The garden beds stand 4 feet off the ground so residents can sit or wheel themselves next to them.

“This allows the residents to participate in weeding as well as planting seeds,” Anderson said.

“The home started this type of therapy to make the residents’ lives more pleasant and stimulating,” he said.

The care center accomplished making gardening more fun and enjoyable by using color with the flowers and smelling herbs. He said it also incorporated taste with the gardening by starting the home’s own vegetable garden.

The use of this type of therapy is rapidly expanding in many institutions, Naeve said. This kind of therapy allows people to take charge of something in their lives.

This type of therapy sparked more care takers to become interested, she said. That is why Iowa State decided to hold an all-day workshop in the Scheman building Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The purpose of this workshop is to teach care takers from around the state how to start this type of therapy, said Naeve.

The program is offering 0.5 general continuing education units as extra incentive for the care takers to attend the workshop. These units are set up by companies so their employees will always be up-to-date about some of the latest information in their fields, said Naeve.

This seminar will look at tools that enable elderly, as well as physically and mentally challenged people to work in the gardens. These tools are specially designed for their needs.

The program will discuss how and where to purchase such items, as well as starting seeds, garden transplants and plant propagation, said Naeve.

The seminar will also tout a special program in Minnesota in which children from day cares will be integrated into helping the elderly in nursing homes start a garden.

“We are very excited about the seminar, for this is the first time it has ever been offered here at Iowa State,” said Naeve.

This is a newer field at ISU and the horticulture program is looking forward to addressing and continuing the education through this program.