Horticultural Therapy offered through Vail Valley Salvation Army | VailDaily.com

Horticultural Therapy offered through Vail Valley Salvation Army

Plants, horticultural practices and a garden setting contain health benefits

In addition to all the good things the Vail Valley Salvation Army does, horticultural therapy can now be added to the list. Patricia Esperon, a master gardener and garden programs manager for the Vail Valley Salvation Army, is excited to bring this versatile modality to the public and help out various groups.

Horticultural Therapy is a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well being for its participants.  

“Dr. Benjamin Rush, who is recognized as the “Father of American Psychiatry,” was first to document the positive effect working in the garden had on individuals with mental illness in the 19th century,” Esperon said.  

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans significantly expanded acceptance of the practice in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, horticultural therapy is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality. It is used within a broad range of rehabilitative, vocational and community settings.

“This is just another modality that is used just like equine, art, sound or music therapy. I love that this is so mobile, we can bring people to the gardens here at the Salvation Army, or we can bring plants to the public in small pots,” Esperon said.

For example, a nursing home might do a horticultural therapy flower arranging session. Or a horticultural therapy practitioner might do a propagation session with a group of adults with cognitive challenges. “Horticultural therapy can be utilized by just about anyone, anywhere,” Esperon said.

Esperon feels fortunate to have the support of the Salvation Army. “We not only have this great garden and greenhouse, but we also have the ability to share this resource and the practice of horticultural therapy with others,” Esperon said.

Some potential programs Esperon would like to implement include helping adults with cognitive challenges, support group workshops, grief workshops, restorative justice, social and food justice programs, programs for senior citizens, veterans, people with traumatic brain injuries and those struggling with substance abuse. 

“Just digging in the dirt has been shown to release serotonin in the brain, and serotonin is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood,” Esperon said. “Being in the garden, sharing time with each other is really therapeutic. It’s amazing what people will share when they are just deadheading daisies.”

If you would like to find out more, contact Esperon at info@salvationarmyvail.org or by calling the Salvation Army at 970-748-0704.