Therapeutic Horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens

At Denver Botanic Gardens, therapeutic horticulture principles are at work to help visitors find resiliency and strength in nature.

Denver Botanic Gardens flowers
Photo by Scott Dressel Martin.

Rejuvenation through nature is not merely a whimsical idea but a scientifically backed benefit to human health and well-being, a principle Angie Andrade, the associate director of Therapeutic Horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens, firmly believes in. Andrade, a certified horticultural therapist, explains that feeling of calm that washes over you when you breathe in the fresh air and “get away from it all” is not just in your head. She says that spending time outside has been scientifically proven to help reduce stress, provide clarity, and rejuvenate the body and mind. Her advocacy underscores the importance of immersing oneself in natural surroundings, whether it be in the mountains, a local park, or one’s backyard.

The American Horticultural Therapy Association, through which Andrade is registered, champions horticultural therapy’s role in enhancing human well-being. This multidisciplinary field merges plant science with human science, applying these principles in therapeutic practices. The benefits of interacting with garden environments span from improving memory and cognitive abilities to aiding physical rehabilitation by strengthening muscles and improving coordination, balance, and endurance.

Denver Botanic Gardens offers a sanctuary where therapeutic horticulture flourishes, providing outreach and onsite programs that employ plants to foster mindfulness and health restoration, from self-guided walks through the Gardens designed for caregivers suffering compassion fatigue to activities like planting a sensory plant container or Nature therapy At Denver Botanic Gardens, therapeutic horticulture principles are at work to help visitors find resiliency and strength in nature. by Stephanie Wilson arranging flowers. These programs are tailored to enrich the physical, mental, and social facets of participants’ lives, enhancing well-being while making horticulture accessible to individuals of all abilities.

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Plants and seeds
Photo by Scott Dressel Martin.

Highlighting the Gardens’ commitment to community engagement, Andrade shares insights into the therapeutic horticulture team’s efforts. Horticulture can mean many things for many people, but for a small group of volunteers at the Gardens, it’s a way to learn and practice job skills, she notes. This initiative has led to the development of partnerships aimed at offering individuals with disabilities a nurturing environment to hone their vocational skills.

One such partnership is with The Joshua School, catering to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities. This collaboration emphasizes life skills necessary for post-educational success, with some students gaining practical experience at the Gardens. Volunteers engage in various tasks within the Morrison Discovery Center greenhouse, practicing skills from watering to pest control. Meticulous planning ensures that each participant can work on personal goals, such as improving communication skills and staying focused, in a supportive setting.

Through the lens of therapeutic horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens, Andrade and her team demonstrate the profound impact nature can have on everyone who encounters it. Their work not only promotes health and well-being but also fosters community connections and vocational growth for those with special needs, illustrating the multifaceted benefits of horticulture therapy.