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2 min read

Horticultural therapy (HT) is a time-proven practice. The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times. In the 19th century, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and recognized as the "Father of American Psychiatry," was first to document the positive effect working in the garden had on individuals with mental illness. 

Most gardeners would prefer to be busy in the garden, rather than think about how tilling the soil and growing plants affects the mind. But as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, I cannot resist reflecting on these things. This is partly because of my own gardening experiences but also because there is a renewal of interest in horticultural therapy.

Recent research carried out by the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) showed that more than a third of people questioned (39 per cent) said that being in a garden makes them feel healthier, while 79 per cent believe that access to a garden is essential for quality of life. The survey coincides with the NGS Festival Weekend (June 7-8) when more than 350 gardens will be open, with proceeds to charity.

Horticultural Therapy utilises many different disciplines and draws upon many different fields including, but not limited to: 

Aged Care

Disability Services


Occupational Therapy

Diversional Therapy

Landscape Architecture

Although gardens have been considered to be healing spaces since ancient times, Horticultural Therapy only developed as a discipline more recently. As such, there is a considerable amount of research which, although it clearly falls under the heading of Horticultural Therapy, is known by different names. Some of these include:

therapeutic horticulture

healing garden

enabling garden

accessible garden

barrier free garden

The therapeutic benefits of being in a garden space are not limited to any particular group. 

Horticultural Therapy may be used to promote positive outcomes of individuals of any age, background or circumstance. 



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