EDUCATING ~ CONNECTING ~ ENGAGING ~ NURTURING ~ REVITALIZING ~ COLLABORATING ~ INSPIRING
By Lesley Fleming, HTR
It is inevitable that issues arise when horticultural therapy programs are being delivered. Determining what plant material is most effective for activities while keeping an eye on budget and maintenance demands can be daunting and time-consuming. Many practitioners rely on certain plants as the backbone for their programs, then turn to seasonal plants to supplement activities or therapeutic gardens.
Q: Plant material is so expensive. How can I be smart about this? What are budget savvy ideas?
A: Plants are expensive so planning ahead makes for some better options. Plant from seed, improve your propagation techniques to grow more yourself, ask other gardeners for donated plants, grow plants as an HT activity and for HT materials: larger plants, cut flowers, dried seeds & pods, produce. Choose plants that can propagate large quantity of cuttings: Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera or Zygocactus), Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), Spider plant (Chlorophytum cosmosum), Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus sp), and Coleus (Solenostemon sp.). Plant shrubs that provide stems, greenery and blossoms: firebush (Hamelia patens), thryallis (Galphimia glauca), forsythia, and witch hazel (Hamamelis spp.). Purchase flats or bundles, preferably wholesale, for best per plant price. Use grow lights for off-season growing when plant prices escalate or when plants are unavailable. Establish relationships with local growers, funeral homes, farmer’s market vendors, landscape companies, for donated materials or lower prices. (Watch for landscaper who re-plants neighborhood’s annuals 4X yearly-- you may be able to gather up plants being replaced). Evaluate how much plant material you need and consider how to maximize less expensive non-plant materials (use smaller vases, more stones or ornamental items in terrariums, botanical print instead of a live arrangement). But do keep in mind that connecting with live plants is the fundamental ingredient in HT.
Q: What plants are the best bang for your buck that are also safe and functional for HT programming?
A: Petunias, pansies, zinnias, loose leaf lettuces, and radishes are easy to grow from seed and produce quickly. Sunflowers (from seed), tomatoes, hydrangea, and eggplant are inexpensive for the wow factor, blossoms or harvest they produce. Grass seed can be used in many iterations including centerpieces for St. Patrick’s or Easter celebrations, grassheads or seed planting activities. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil, lemon grass and lavender offer multi-sensory options, propagate easily and are readily available. Karen Kennedy’s herb articles published in AHTA Magazine (2014 to present) offer extensive [herb] plant information with time-tested activities proven effective for HT programs. Use seasonal or local plants as much as possible for both budget and sustainability reasons!
About the author
Lesley Fleming is a registered horticultural therapist living in Florida. She delivers therapeutic horticulture programs to multiple populations, conducts HT workshops in both Canada and the U.S., and her articles are featured regularly in HT trade publications including eatbreathegarden.com. Her latest research in 2015, Veteran to Farmer Programs: An Emerging Nature-Based Programming Trend was published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 25(1) 27-48.