University of Maryland Extension

Therapeutic Horticulture

Welcome to Therapeutic Horticulture (TH)

Our committee’s program is a bit different from the other volunteer opportunities with MCMG.  While your gardening knowledge and master gardening training can be put to good use creating any number of actual Therapeutic Horticulture projects, a key component of this program is the meaningful way you will get to connect with a special needs, mostly elderly, population. We are a community outreach activity with 21 weekly and monthly on-going programs in Montgomery County.  Most of these are at senior assisted living residences and nursing homes and several are in gardens, including the Derwood Demo Garden, which serves two autistic youth groups. 

The goal of our programs is to bring a hands-on experience in the garden or with nature to a target audience who are either no longer able to be outside gardening or need assistance to do so.  Through projects incorporating plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs and focusing on the seasonal changes in our local environment, we hope to invigorate their senses, promote their awareness of the natural world around them, and to foster creativity and socialization. Whether making a floral arrangement of fresh or dried flowers, planting seeds in a garden bed, growing lettuces in a salad box, pressing flowers for bookmarks, or potting up houseplants, every project has an educational component with a specific topic and theme which master gardeners present to accompany the physical work product.  A dedicated group of over 100 master gardeners put boundless energy into these programs hoping to inspire and bring a meaningful experience to the people we serve.

Theraputic Horticulture in action!
Photo by Lisa Diamond

TH is an immensely rewarding volunteer program that rather uniquely combines the pleasures of gardening with ample opportunities for creativity, teaching and working closely with other master gardeners and the program's participants.  Our programs thrive on the varied skill sets of the master gardeners in each group.   For every crafty, creative volunteer who knows their way around Michaels, loves to spray paint, and owns no less than two glue guns, there is someone else whose home garden provides amazing plant materials for projects and another person who is a wiz with plant propagation.  Bringing these skills together is what makes a great team for TH projects.  We hope this description will help you to more easily see yourself as one of our TH volunteers.

Some Basic Facts about our Program:

Most programs are held once a month while a few are bi-monthly and others, the autistic program at Derwood, are weekly in the growing season.

Most programs have an average of 5 or 6 master gardeners on their teams.  TH volunteers are expected to commit to be a member of a TH program team (some volunteers commit to 2 or 3 programs) and are expected to maintain this commitment on a regular/long term basis.  This is not a drop-in activity.

Projects are usually one hour in duration with extra set-up and clean-up time.

All TH programs take place on weekdays.

Most of our current programs are open to new volunteers.

Everyone is welcome to visit any of our programs, just contact the program leader. See link to Centers List below.

We maintain a TH shared site on the ‘Shutterfly’ website where we archive monthly project photos and descriptions to encourage sharing of good project ideas and so that no one has to reinvent the wheel. See link below.

We have a group listserv for TH as our group’s main means of communication between members about anything related to TH. See link below.

The variety of projects include: growing vegetables, herbs, flowers and houseplants, making indoor topiaries, planting terrariums, dish gardens, and self-watering container gardens, forcing bulbs for indoor blooming, propagating plants, and numerous forms and thematic ways of arranging and creating things with fresh and dried flowers.

Most projects are very collaborative with project leadership being shared by two people each time and rotating these duties throughout the year among each team's volunteers.

Leading a project is a great way to earn lots of volunteer hours since all of the planning and prep time (typically 4-5 hours) is in addition to the actual time presenting the project.

Proposals for new programs in our county are always welcome and the chairpersons are available to facilitate starting and staffing new programs at centers who want to offer our Therapeutic Horticulture projects to their residents.

Most plant materials for projects are provided by the gardens of master gardeners and the designated beds at the Derwood Demo Garden with all other purchased materials being paid for by the facilities where the participants reside.

Additional volunteer opportunities for our committee include the planning, planting and maintenance of the four Therapeutic Horticulture beds at the Derwood Demo garden.

Each spring we host an Annual Therapeutic Horticulture Workshop, where we have full demonstrations of many example projects and offer lots of tips and training from our program leaders and team members. This is the single best way to jump into the work of our committee and to meet the master gardeners who are running and working at these programs throughout the county.  In late November or early December, we host a Fall meeting of Therapeutic Horticulture Program.  This is a shorter and more informal meeting than the one in the spring, but it is also a great jumping off point for becoming involved.

Theraputic Horticulture in action!
Photo by Lisa Diamond

How to Visit or Volunteer at a TH project

Click on the link for the TH Centers List to contact the leader of any program at which you are possibly interested in volunteering. The Centers spreadsheet lists all of the current Therapeutic Horticulture Programs, their locations, and meeting days/times, and the email/phone information for their program leaders. Emailing or talking with the leaders should give you a good idea about how their specific program runs and visiting that program at an arranged date can be helpful if you are not certain about committing to monthly participation.

Click here (link is external) to see a short video featuring our Therapeutic Horticulture Program which was created for Montgomery County Cable TV.

Click here to read an article about our Therapeutic Horticulture program from the MCMG newsletter, The Seed, October issue, located on page 5.

Click here (link is external) to view our Therapeutic Horticulture shared site on Shutterfly where we display and archive photos and descriptions of the monthly projects from our 20+ programs, and where, during the growing season, weekly updates and photos show the status/progress of flowers that are grown specifically for our programs in the MG Demonstration Garden in Derwood, MD.  In order to more fully engage with this site and its functionality, email Wendy Band (wendyband44@gmail.com) to request an invitation to become a ‘member’ of our shared Shutterfly site.

Click here for a link to an older archive of TH projects (by month) with photos and completely detailed descriptions of how to recreate each of these projects.

Click here to request access to our TH group listserv.

Click here for a link to thematic poems, songs and clip art for decorative picks

Click here to download our TH reimbursement form to be used for reimbursement of project expenses associated with monthly programs.

Click here for a link to the media waiver to be used when posting photos of TH program participants.

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