Horticultural therapy uses plants and gardening to support therapy, rehabilitation, and restoration both individually and in community. In my specific practice, I develop and facilitate gardening and plant-based activities that responds to collective trauma and violence held in individual bodies, centering somatics and a healing justice framework.1 While I am currently in the process of developing curriculum and practices for survivors of sexual violence as well as for individuals with childhood trauma, I also bring horticultural therapy practices to working in community with the understanding that personal transformation = social transformation, and that healing is for everyone. Yes, when we work towards healing personally, we do so collectively.
The below documentation is that of bringing horticultural therapy practices in public and common spaces. I am working on sharing a toolkit for horticultural therapy for individual and group uses, but please reach out to me in the interim to collaborate or for specific questions.2
I draw from both metaphor and embodied practice to create and facilitate horticultural therapy activities that nurture reflection, rehabilitation, and self-seeing in equal measure. For example, participants may find a resonance in the metaphors of seed dispersal while also affirming their own agency through germinating a seed and watching its growth in seed-starting. Goals in horticultural therapy may be social-emotional, physical, cognitive, interpersonal, or sensory. I typically center themes that utilize ethnobotany, herbal arts, gardening, plant morphology and behavior, and a general attuning to nature as teacher. Horticultural therapy activities range from starting seeds while goal-setting, to full-bodied weeding, to harvesting and preparing meals centered in community connection.
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver
While much healing can happen in both measurable and metaphorical, some of the magic of horticultural therapy is the awe and wonder that unfolds in the unnamable and incalculable–a poetics in tending to the plants. Healing justice framework has been introduced and carried by Black woman. To work towards personal and social transformation at this time is only possible by opening to their work and reckoning with the harm and hurt we’ve caused in relationship to race.
Healing Justice Framework as defined by Cara Page on www.transformtheHarm.com firstname.lastname@example.org