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Horticulture Therapy Garden

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Introduction to Horticultural therapy

 Horticultural Therapy is an interdisciplinary approach to human development that integrates social and behavioral science with horticulture and environment. (Beela & Reghunath 2010). Horticultural therapy (also known as social and therapeutic horticulture ) is defined by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) as the engagement of a person in gardening and plant-based activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific therapeutic treatment goals. Horticultural therapists are specially educated and trained members of rehabilitation teams (with doctorspsychiatristspsychologistsoccupational therapists and other) who involve the client in all phases of gardening, from propagation to selling products, as a means of bringing about improvement in their life.

History and Practice

Horticultural therapy (HT) is a time-proven practice. The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and recognized as the "Father of American Psychiatry," was first to document the positive effect working in the garden had on individuals with mental illness.

The first modern documentation of horticulture being used as a treatment for mental health purposes was in the 1800s. Dr. Benjamin Rush discovered that field labor in a farm setting helped attain positive outcomes for clients with mental illness (Simson& Straus, 2003). This discovery lead many hospitals in the western world to begin using horticulture as a means to start therapeutically treating patients with mental health and developmental disabilities. In 1817, the Asylum for Persons Deprived of Their Reason, now known as Friends Hospital, constructed an environment with landscaping, paths and a park atmosphere in effort to assist patients in their recovery. In 1879 Friends Hospital built the first greenhouse that was used for therapy (Simson& Straus, 2003). “During World War I and II, servicemen worked in gardens to improve functioning of injured limbs and increase mental function, but also to learn new skills and to provide food. Plants and gardening also came to be used as a diversion for those who were hospitalized long-term.

Today, HT is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality. It is widely used within a broad range of rehabilitative, vocational, and community settings.

Beneficiaries of Horticultural Therapy 

Horticultural therapy is used for people with a wide range of cognitive, physical and social skills, including those people: 

  • Suffering from stroke
  • Suffering from heart disease
  • With sight impairment (the blind and the partially sighted)
  • With dementia
  • With learning disabilities
  • With physical disabilities (including amputees)
  • With underdeveloped social skills
  • Chronically unemployed
  • Disengaged teenagers
  • In substance abuse recovery
  • Recovering from illness
  • Coming to terms with grief
  • Adjusting after personal difficulties in their lives
  • With terminal illness
  • Rehabilitating after a period in hospital
  • With physical restrictions  - such as the elderly
  • Children with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome
  • Children – in general.


Kerala Agricultural University is the only academic institution which has been committed to developing the theory, research, and practice of horticultural therapy in Kerala. The Department of Community Science in collaboration with the faculties of Department of Horticulture disseminates knowledge to diverse audiences, and promotes excellence in professional, educational, and research achievement in the field of Horticultural therapy. The University has been reaching out to the institutions and rehabilitation centres in project mode. Many government and private institutions has come forward to Department of Community Science with a request to impart training to their professional staff in order to implement horticultural therapy in their institutions. The institutions include schools, rehabilitation centres, palliative cares etc. Model Community Horticultural Therapy Garden which is being set  in the College of Agriculture, Vellayani will provide the  students with a hands-on opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills required to work in social, therapeutic and vocational horticultural settings. (Setting up of a Horticultural therapy community garden is on going on a project mode which is funded by Kerala Social Security Mission and Dept of Agriculture, Govt of Kerala).


Community Horticulture Therapy garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. The gardens are specifically designed to address a variety of applications within healthcare, rehabilitative and other therapeutic settings. The basic features of the garden is that it  includes wide and gently graded accessible entrances and paths, raised planting beds, rotating pots, hanging pots with pulley, hugging tree, vertical gardening, pond  and a sensory-oriented plant selection focused on color, texture, and fragrance.



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