Therapeutic horticulture degree offered at OSU

September 22, 2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new horticulture degree from Oregon State University teaches students how to design gardens that promote wellness and provide therapy for special-needs populations.

The new Bachelor of Science degree in therapeutic horticulture is offered through the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with Portland Community College.

"Undergraduates learn to lead the design and creation of healthcare gardens and provide plant-based therapies for people who have physical, emotional or mental challenges," said Teresia Hazen, registered horticultural therapist at Legacy Health in Portland.

Horticultural therapy programs have been serving patients since World War II, Hazen said, when service people returned with psychiatric and physical disabilities.

"Rehabilitation hospitals across America offer horticultural therapy services for patients recovering from stroke, cardiac conditions, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic and other neurological disorders," she said. Corrections programs usually run horticulture programs for vocational training, and people with developmental disabilities benefit from recreational horticulture programs.

"The greatest market at this time is serving the ballooning senior population with recreation programs for health, wellness and quality of life in group homes, assisted living, nursing homes and independent living facilities."

Completion of the degree makes students eligible for professional registration with the American Horticultural Therapy Association and qualifies them for horticultural industry careers in landscaping and at greenhouses, nurseries and farms. Other employment opportunities are in hospitals, retirement communities and health agencies.

Six core horticultural therapy courses will be taught by Hazen as part of a collaborative effort between OSU and Portland Community College. Students will enroll in the core courses through PCC and then transfer the credits to OSU.

"We are the only place in the nation where therapeutic horticulture training is offered onsite at a health and human service agency," Hazen said. As head of the Legacy Health Systems Horticultural Therapy department, she oversees seven therapeutic gardens and another pending garden in the fundraising stage.

Therapeutic gardens are being built more frequently in health and human service agencies and are designed following several characteristics, Hazen said. "Scheduled activities encourage people to visit and become acquainted with the gardens, which are modified to improve accessibility, ease of gardening and the ability to enjoy plants and people-plant interactions all year round."

The gardens are convenient, practical and pleasurable landscapes for all ages and abilities, Hazen said. They stimulate memory, hearing, touch, smell and taste in a secure and comfortable place where hazardous chemicals are avoided. They can be both indoors and outdoors.

Therapeutic horticulture is one of seven options for a major in horticulture at OSU. The new option supports the recent American Horticultural Therapy Association requirement of a four-year college degree to obtain its credential.

The Department of Horticulture, established in 1888 at OSU, has a reputation for outstanding courses, internship experiences, faculty mentoring and professional development, Hazen said. "Graduates are highly qualified and actively recruited. It is our intention to continue this legacy in the therapeutic horticulture program."

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Teresia Hazen