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Horticultural Therapists

History

Gardens have been grown for thousands of years, both for their beauty as well as their products. In the Middle Ages, for example, gardening took place mainly within the walls of monasteries, and gardens included herbs for medicinal purposes, flowers for the church, and fruits and vegetables for the monks to eat. In the United States, people also gardened for pleasure as well as practicality. With the opening of the Friends Asylum for the Insane in Pennsylvania in 1817, however, gardening and nature activities took on an additional purpose. The Friends Asylum, a hospital for the mentally ill, was built on a farm and had walkways, gardens, and tree-filled areas. As part of their treatment, patients were expected to participate in the upkeep of the grounds. In 1879, the Friends Asylum built a greenhouse for patient use and today is recognized as the first-known U.S. hospital to treat patients with what is now known as horticultural therapy.

The use of horticultural therapy did not become popular, however, until after World War II. Garden club groups, wanting to help wounded servicemen at veterans' hospitals, began volunteering and sharing their gardening know-how. By 1955, Michigan State University was the first university to award an undergraduate degree in horticultural therapy. Today horticultural therapists undergo special training, and a number of colleges and universities offer degrees or programs in horticultural therapy.