Juliet Niehaus is shown here working with a patient in Guyana, South America, where she was invited to help establish horticultural therapy programs.

Anyone who has nurtured a garden into healthy growth knows the therapeutic serenity and sense of accomplishment the endeavor produces. Less well known is the horticultural therapy profession, which aids disabled people by nourishing their green thumbs.

On Wednesday (Aug. 30) at 3:30, Juliet Niehaus, Horticultural Therapy director at Tucson Botanical Gardens, will discuss how gardening and nature-related activities are used to facilitate health and well-being for people with special needs.

Niehaus’s presentation will give an overview of the history of the profession, current arenas in which horticultural therapy is practiced, and the program at Tucson Botanical Gardens.

She will discuss medical and social outcomes of working with plants for people with disabilities, and will also provide tips for the rest of us who want to garden our way to a healthier life.

Horticultural therapy traces its roots in the United States to what is now Friends Hospital in Philadelphia where, in the 1880s, the first greenhouse for use in treatment of the mentally ill was built. In the early 1900s, the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, implemented the use of gardening in treating those with mental illness.

Since World War II, horticultural therapy has been developed as a treatment for those with a variety of disabilities, including mental illness, cardiac disease, cancer, AIDS, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s Disease, visual impairments, and brain injury. It is used in such diverse settings as hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, prisons, group residences and day programs.

Juliet Niehaus

The Botanical Gardens’ Horticultural Therapy program, initiated by a docent in 1983, is one of the oldest public garden-based programs in the country and the only program of its kind in Arizona. Since 1998, the program has helped over 1000 individuals in more than 40 different school, human service agencies, and long-term care facilities in southern Arizona.

Written by Margaret Scott, Academy Village Volunteer


Garden Your Way to a Healthier Life:Aug.2017