Horticultural Therapy

Photo of two people gardening. One is kneeling to look at the soil, and the other is shoveling. They are wearing hats, and it is very sunny.

Horticultural Therapy (HT) and Therapeutic Horticulture (TH) use plants, gardens, and the natural landscape to improve cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Established in 2016, the Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy is a forum for people from community, private sector, academic, healthcare and educational settings to exchange knowledge about horticultural therapy for diverse populations and in a wide variety of settings.

See Group Activities and Presentations

See Community Projects

Group Conveners
  • Dr. Jan Buley—Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Memorial University
  • Jennifer Joy Russell—Occupational Therapist


Goals & Objectives

The Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy aims to:

  • Facilitate networking, collaboration and inter-disciplinary research opportunities among members from a variety of sectors and academic disciplines
  • Explore research opportunities and to seek funding for research projects related to HT practice and programs
  • Exchange knowledge about research evidence related to HT and its applications
  • Share information about HT-related activities and programs being offered through academic, healthcare, community, and private sector organizations with a view to improving knowledge about such activities across diverse sectors (removing information silos)
  • Share and promote community-based research for partners in health, education and the community who are planning to develop new HT programs in a variety of settings by involving research in program development
  • Explore opportunities to inform policy makers about the role of green spaces, horticulture, good landscape design before infrastructure is built, and food sustainability/security with a view to promoting health and wellness in NL
  • Bridge the activities of the Botanical Gardens at Memorial with stakeholders throughout the community
  • Recognize the flexible and inclusive role of HT as it may extend to treatment, healing, skills development, training opportunities, experiential learning, rehabilitation, etc.
  • Recognize that the applications for HT can, and should, extend to diverse communities, including: vulnerable populations, people living in institutional healthcare settings, people living and working within correctional settings, people with a variety of health, social, and ability challenges who live within various communities and care settings, for people of all ages in educational settings and for broader public health and wellness goals that aim to address "nature deficiency" across the NL population

Group Activities

The Phoenix Garden Speakers' Series- 2022

November 14, 2023 at 12:30PM | The role of plants and gardens in human wellness: how can they improve older adult health and geriatric care? | Joel Flagler is a Professor of Horticultural Therapy and Agricultural Extension Agent working with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Bergen County in Hackensack, NJ.  Mr. Flagler’s primary professional focus is on  people-plant relationships, horticultural therapy, and ornamental horticulture but his work also encompasses agricultural viability, support for farmers/growers in Bergen County,  support and educational programs for the ornamental garden industry, greenhouse, landscape, nursery, turf managers, arborists, garden centers, exterminators, and health officers in Bergen County.  A Registered Horticultural Therapist, Mr. Flagler has served 2 elected terms on the Board of Directors of the American Horticultural Therapy Association.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Forestry Science from Yale University, a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Rutgers University Cook College, and a Certificate in Horticultural Therapy from the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. | Mr. Flagler's talk  explores his work investigating people-plant Relationships and developing/delivering specialized Horticulture Programming for a wide range of populations, often partnering with Mental Health practitioners. This session focuses on the role of gardens in the wellness of older adults and the role of horticultural therapies in geriatric care, which has implications as well for persons with disabilities. 

June 1, 2023 | Nature on Prescription: PaRx in Newfoundland & Labrador | Evidence indicates that people who spend time in nature report better health. In June 2022, PaRx, Canada’s national evidence-based nature prescription programme was officially launched in Newfoundland and Labrador, enabling healthcare professionals in this province to prescribe nature to their patients. Healthcare providers are always looking for simple, practical interventions to improve their patients’ lives. The beauty of PaRx is that almost anyone can increase the time they spend in nature, no matter what their physical abilities are or where they live. A growing body of research suggests that spending time in nature has a wide range of positive effects on human health, from reduced chronic disease to improved birth outcomes—over and above the benefits of exercise. Studies also suggest that written prescriptions are better received than oral advice in motivating patients to make a change. The PaRx approach has the potential to improve patient health; it also has the potential to raise awareness about environmental concerns. This panel presentation looked at the evidence for the health benefits of time in nature, as well as talk specifically about the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment – NL (CAPE-NL) and its partnership with PaRx. | PANEL:  Richard Smith, a medical student at Memorial University and a member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE-NL), Robyn Woodrow, a medical student at Memorial University and member of the CAPE NL regional committee, Dr. Jane Gosine, co-convener of our exchange on Arts & Health, professor at Memorial University’s School of Music, cross-appointed to Community Health and Humanities in the Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Stephanie Atkinson, an orthopaedic surgeon on the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and a clinical assistant professor with the MUN Faculty of Medicine, chair of CAPE-NL. 

May 23, 2023 | Gardening at Empower, the Disability Resource Centre|  Empower is a cross disability organization that break s down barriers every day. Barriers to access. To knowledge. To choices. Empower provides support, resources, and information to support people to make informed decisions about their lives.  Services are free to anyone who self identifies as having a disability. Empower is a vital part of our community, and the need for its services is growing. Amanda, the Coordinator of Member Services at Empower, along with Terrie Hefford, Garden Committee Chair and Stephen Westcott, gardener, toegterh with group convener Jennifer Russell,  educated us about Empower and their many programs and services while taking us for a virtual walk through Empower's Debbie Prim Courtyard and Garden.

April 5, 2023 | Pollinator Partnership Canada Presentation |Pollinator Partnership Canada (P2C) is a registered charity dedicated to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems through conservation, education, and research. Please join us as Jordan Phelps, the Bee City Canada coordinator at P2C, leads the group in a conversation about pollinators and P2C's efforts to support municipalities engaging in pollinator-friendly initiatives through Bee City Canada. Jordan will tell us about:

  • Pollinators 101: Who are the pollinators? Why are pollinators important? What issues are they facing? How can we help?
  • Bee City Canada and municipal efforts to support pollinators: Bee City Canada's pollinator protection framework, and case studies that demonstrate how Bee Cities across Canada are taking action to protect pollinators

About Our Presenter:  Jordan Phelps is the Bee City Program Coordinator for Pollinator Partnership Canada. His passion for pollinators was sparked as an undergraduate at Western University where he studied animal cognition and learned about the incredible feats of learning and memory that bees and other small-brained but mentally mighty pollinators are capable of. He went on to complete an M.Sc. at Western University in neuroscience where he studied how exposure to common pesticides impacts the ability of bumblebees to learn about and gather food from flowers. 

February 28, 2023 12:00pm-1:30pm| Summer in February. Citrus and Tropicals! A Field Trip to the MUN Botanical Gardens Greenhouse | To get the 2023 season of the Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy off to a warm and welcoming start, we’re inviting you to join us for lunch at the Botanical Gardens Greenhouse where Tim Walsh, O.D.H., Nursery Manager will discuss and demonstrate how to grow citrus plants indoors in Newfoundland as well as introducing us to some of the tropical plants that thrive in the greenhouse environment (and possibly in YOUR house, too!).  Citrus has long been heralded as beneficial to our health, especially in winter, whether when used for its scent to relieve signs of stress and fatigue, and promote relaxation and elevated mood  or eaten for its downright tangy deliciousness, anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C rich fruit.

March 31, 2022 11:30am to 2:00pm | MUN Botanical Gardens Site Visit and Arts / HT Workshop with Dr. Jan Buley and with Botanical Gardens Nursery Manager, Tim Walsh |Getting Creative at MUN Botanical Gardens: A Horticultural Therapy workshop

Group should arrive at MUN Botanical Gardens main building at 11:30am and will be taken to the greenhouse by Nursery Manager, Tim Walsh

• 11:45am: Jan Buley will lead us in a Creative Writing Workshop in the greenhouse
• 12:00pm to 12:20pm: Venture outdoors to 'catch words and phrases' from Mother Nature
• 12:20pm: Back into the green 'classroom' for lunch and a chat about how to muck about and rearrange caught texts
• 12:45-1pm: Rochelle Baker will discuss some ideas for embellishing the work with art (special papers, sharpies, double sided tape, and art frames to be provided) and we'll spend time putting our writing into a frame, adding some artwork
• 1:45pm-2:00pm: A sharing/gallery walk until 2pm and we'll wrap things up

February 23, 2022 at 12noon NST | Growing a stronger sense of community: How the Bonaventure Community Garden and a neighbourhood composting project support health, connection, and ecological stewardship | This presentation is a discussion about lessons that have been learned and are being learned daily through a collaboration among Stella's Circle, King's Gate Condominiums, Social Justice Co-op and many others in nourishing and creating a garden to grow a stronger sense of community.

The Bonaventure Community Garden has been home to many Stella’s Circle employment and therapeutic programs over the past 5 years, through a wonderful partnership with Kings Gate Condominiums. Thanks to many generous donors, the Garden will soon be redeveloped by Mills & Wright Landscape Architecture with O’Neil’s Construction to create a multi-purpose urban green space for community use. The Garden will be landscaped and improved so that all Stella’s Circle program participants and community users can fully enjoy the space for gardening, recreation, relaxation, skills development, as well as practice horticultural and other expressive therapies.  Since we all know that gardens need good soil (and the planet needs less waste), the project includes a community compost pilot project, organized by the Social Justice Co-op in partnership with the City of St. John’s, MMSB and Food First NL which has been an enormous success with strong uptake and nutritious soil creation to support growth in the community garden.

About our presenters:

  • Viviana Ramírez Luna is a Colombian/Newfoundlander & Labradorian, Environmental Scientist, Mom, Entrepreneur, and a Zero Waste Consultant and Advocate. She leads the Georgestown Community Composting Project, which has created connections with fantastic human beings and brought new perspectives of what composting can mean for communities. This session is the perfect example.
  • Rob McLennan is a community-based social worker with an interest in the relationship between work and health, overseeing a variety of programs and partnerships including social enterprise activities at Stella’s Circle. Rob also coordinates the Stella’s Circle Inclusion choir and in partnership with volunteers and the Board at King’s Gate Condominium, an innovative community garden and green space. He received a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees from Memorial University of Newfoundland and remains active in field instruction. Rob has facilitated other courses for the Canadian Red Cross and Mental Health First Aid.
  • Michelle Sullivan, Ph.D., MSM is a Registered Social Worker and a retired Faculty member of the School of Social Work at Memorial University. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Kingsgate Condominium Corporation and provides liaison between the Board and the Bonaventure Community Garden Working Group. She also provides volunteer service to the City of St. John’s as a member of the Experts Advisory Panel on Heritage Matters, serves the Province as a general member of the Criminal Code Mental Diseases Review Board, and provides adoption home studies for New Canadians seeking to Adopt minors from their home countries.
  • Gail Simoes Re is an avid and highly valued supporter of the Bonaventure Community Garden. She is a community philanthropist and is personally committed to environmental sustainability, is a daily composter, and has been an avid gardener for some 30+ years. While her personal business experience is minimal, she grew up in a business household as her parents ran their business enterprises and charitable activities out of their home. Consequently, she was exposed to giving back to the community throughout her childhood and adult life. She often volunteered her services within her children’s activities, through fundraisers and in other capacities. Scouts Canada, St. John’s Minor Hockey, Canada Games 2005 to name a few. Giving back to one’s community has been an important motto throughout her life.

January 19, 2022| Horticultural Therapy for older adults living in long-term care: focusing on people with cognitive impairments | Bianca van der Stoel is a Horticultural Therapist with a solid foundation as a Recreation Therapist whose goal is to promote a shift in our healthcare system by reinforcing the role that nature, plants, and green spaces can play in an individual's well-being. Engaging with nature may be as simple as sitting beneath the trees after days in a treatment environment with low stimulation, a conversation over a fresh rose at an individual's bedside, or digging hands into the soil in a therapy group. As a board member of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association, and the Education Committee Coordinator for the CHTA, Bianca aims to be a change-maker, promoting the value and need for this therapeutic modality in all settings- from Long Term Care environments, to hospitals, to schools, and far beyond. She would like to see Horticultural Therapy put down roots across this country, and around the world! With professional experience in Community Health, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Mental Health, and Palliative Care settings, she will tell us about engaging, meaningful activities centered around the modality of horticulture. A variety of programs that she offers focus on goals such as physical mobility, socialization, sensory stimulation, or experiences of contribution and purpose.

November 16, 2021 at 2:00pm NST | The Phoenix Garden Project at HMP | What happens when you create beauty and plant seeds of humanity inside prison walls? Dr. Jan Buley will update the group on the innovative Phoenix Garden Project at Her Majesty's Penitentiary (HMP), a program inspired by the Insight Garden in San Quentin and initiated by members of this Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy.  Every week, a group of volunteers (the Outside garden team) meets with a team of Inside gardeners at HMP to deliver an innovative arts-based curriculum that combines mindfulness and creativity with hands-on gardening and landscaping training.  And Yes!  There is even a greenhouse! We'll talk about how the Phoenix Gardeners at HMP connect to the natural world while strengthening other bonds too-- to the self, to each other, and to the community.

September 8, 2021 | 12:30pm NST | Tour of the 365 Greenhouse at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism/ Autism Society of NL |Together with the Research Exchange Group on Autism, we kicked off the Fall 2021 Season with a guided tour (provided by the Autism Society of NL) of the 365 Greenhouse at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism at 70 Clinch Crescent in St. John’s. We met the greenhouse team and learned about how the Autism Society Newfoundland Labrador and Iron & Earth East teamed up on the first greenhouse of its kind to be built in this province, among the first net-metering projects to be connected to the provincial grid. The 365 Greenhouse Project showcases renewable energy technologies, highlights issues surrounding food sustainability and serves as a community-building and educational tool. The greenhouse operates year-round benefiting from natural light during the standard growing season and generating the heat and light required for growing during the winter using photovoltaic (PV) modules. The 365 Greenhouse also benefits people with autism spectrum disorder through the Good Roots Gardening Program and also supports the ASNL’s social enterprise, The Pantry Cafe.

February 23, 2021 | The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) Programs and Membership Benefits | Cheney Creamer, Chair of the CHTA |  Cheney is an Organizational Wellness Consultant, HeartMath® Certified Coach, and Horticultural Therapy Specialist. She provides customized workplace wellness programs, individual and group coaching, guided mindfulness hikes, as well as interactive workshops and keynote presentations. She spoke with the group about the programs of the CHTA and benefots of membership. |  Link to Presentation 

October 3, 2020 | "Eat the City": A Garden Tour | Food First NL and local organizations visited community and school gardens in the Centre City area of St. John's. The tour took place on Saturday October 3rd, starting at Bonaventure Garden (adjacent to the Gymnasium end of Holy Heart High School on Bonaventure Avenue). The tour visited the Bonaventure Garden, Aldershot Community Garden in Rabbittown, St. Bonaventure College school garden, and then neighborhood gardens in Georgestown. We ended with a chat on the role of community gardens and 'growing your own' in St. John's. |

November 6, 2020 | The Insight Garden program at San Quentin Prison in California | Faryn Beth Hart and Margot Reisner | The presenters joined us from California to discuss the Insight Garden Program (IGP) which facilitates an innovative curriculum combined with vocational gardening and landscaping training so that people in prison can reconnect to self, community, and the natural world. This “inner” and “outer” gardening approach transforms lives, ends ongoing cycles of incarceration, and creates safer communities. Their model is a real solution to some of the most pressing issues impacting prisoners and people in reentry and is poised to expand throughout California and nationally. The impact of this presentation can be seen here. |  Link to Slides |  | 

February 19, 2020 | The Earth Sheltered Greenhouse Project | Dan Rubin of Perfectly Perennial Herbs and Seeds | Dan spent years working as a teacher, curriculum developer and school principal. After he moved to Newfoundland in 2002, he became involved in arts management and garden education. Now as a leader of the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse Project, he is combining interest in plants and concern about food security to develop year round food production by marrying the greenhouse and the root cellar. With funding from Memorial University’s Office of Public Engagement, his team will be building a demonstration version of this innovative greenhouse structure at the O’Brien Farm in St. John’s and launching a team to support others in developing community Food Hubs as a way to boost food production, create local employment and improve community health. |  Link to Project Report |

March 11, 2020 | Current Developments in the Field of Nature-Based Therapies with a Focus on Horticultural Therapy Practice | Matthew Wichrowski MSW HTR, NYU horticultural therapist, Assistant Clinical Professor, and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture | A discussion on nature, rehabilitation, health and wellness. Matthew  shared current developments in the field of nature-based therapies with a focus on horticultural therapy practice. | Link to Presentation |


September 12, 2019 |  The Use of Horticultural Therapy Practices in the Autism Society of NL's Transitions Program | Megan Marshall | The presentation covered how the Transitions program taps into communicative and social skill issues that people with Autism face by using Horticultural Therapy approaches and how these approaches help teach functional employment skills. | Link to Presentation |


January 31, 2018 | Horticultural Therapy in the Canadian Justice System: Coast-to-Coast Perspectives |

  • Ryan Frisbee on his work as a Horticultural Therapist at the Pacific Institution/ Regional Treatment Centre in British Columbia. Ryan is the Pacific Institution's registered horticultural therapist who runs one of Correctional Service Canada's most innovative treatment programs. |  Link to Slides |
  • Lana Bos on the Horticultural Skills Training Program delivered at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia. Her presentation includes an overview of the program, courses and activities and a discussion of the benefits, successes, therapeutic connections and future opportunities. |  Link to Slides |
  • Norman Goodyear on the Green Mindfulness program at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s, NL. The program evolved out of work done in cooperation with the MUN Wellness Centre and the MUN Botanical Gardens where they developed a Green Mindfulness program primarily for students, but that was also open to all within the university community and visitors to campus. |  Link to Slides |

March 2, 2018 |  Horticultural Therapy Community Engaged Learning with First Year Social Work Students and Transitions Programme Participants | Shannon Lewis-Simpson and Megan Marshall |


May 8, 2017 | The Bonaventure Community Garden Project | Rob McLennan, Stella’s Circle and Michelle Sullivan, King’s Gate Condominium Project | This garden provides a living example of HT interventions in community—being built through a partnership with Stella’s Circle and Kings Gate Condominium, with the funds received for enhanced staff training, this project will provide a space that is inviting for its users. Through the Bonaventure Community Garden, community members will be able to learn new skills to grow their own food; improve their mental health; and to top it all off, enjoy a little physical activity. |

March 21, 2017 | Propagating Undergraduate Student Growth through Exposure to Nature, the Outdoors, and Gardening |  TA Loeffler |  Link to Presentation |

January 10, 2017 | Walk & Talk Therapy | Tyla Charbonneau, Memorial Student Wellness Centre |  Link to References List |

November 29, 2017 | Transitions: A Nature-Based Program for People with Autism  | Megan Marshall, NL Autism Society |  Link to Presentation |

October 25, 2017 | Green Mindfulness: A Novel Approach to Student Wellness | Norman Goodyear and Heather Quinlan | Link to Presentation |


September 27 , 2016 | Place Builder as a Healthy Community Planning Tool | Neil Dawe, Tract Consulting |

May 17, 2016 | The Evidence Base for Horticultural Therapy | Dr. S. Norman Goodyear |

March 11, 2016 | Networking Opportunity with University Faculty The Landing | University faculty and staff attended this meeting with liked-minded internal and external stakeholders. Faculty and staff networked with community partners to learn how they can mobilize students and knowledge at Memorial and discussed the potential to use existing resources and systems to advance research and teaching while also assisting external partners to meet their objectives. |

The Phoenix Garden Program

Members of the Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy have been connecting with community partners, staff and inmates at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's to create an innovative arts-based curriculum that combines mindfulness and creativity with hands-on gardening and landscaping training for inmates. Learn more about the Phoenix Garden Program here.