University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener
Success Story: Horticultural Therapy for Veterans

By Laura Sanagorski, Palm Beach Horticulture Agent

After hearing a talk on an inspiring topic, Palm Beach Master Gardeners have turned an unused area of the landscape at the local Veterans Administration medical center into a therapy garden that benefits veterans.

VA Therapeutic GardenDr. Maura Miller, Director of the VA Medical Center’s Therapeutic Gardening Program, gave a presentation entitled “Using Horticultural Therapy for Clinical Rehabilitation in Residential Care Facilities” in 2010 at a Master Gardener educational meeting.

Many Master Gardeners were motivated to donate their time and services to improve and develop the garden adjacent to the rehabilitation facility. Master Gardeners Diane Bradley, Harry Winkler, Renee Sayles, and VA volunteer Anne Tippen have been the nucleus of the one-day-a-week effort to develop this area of solitude where the veterans can spend some time with nature.

Initially, Master Gardeners Barbara Sreenan, Livia Pepper, Molly Sims, and Mike Kalland were involved in acquiring plants and landscape design.

Volunteers with invasive carrotwood seedlingA beautiful garden has been developed from what was a somewhat barren area. The site now offers a butterfly garden, and an assortment of palms and blossoming flowers to add colorful beauty to the scene. Veterans are involved in making birdhouses and assist with watering and other activities to maintain the garden.

In 2011, the VA Therapeutic Garden was used to provide hands-on training on the yard evaluation process for new UF/IFAS Palm Beach County Florida-Friendly Yard Advisors.

Our enthusiastic volunteers learned that their small actions could make the difference in a landscape receiving Florida-Friendly status. During the training, new Yard Advisors removed a carrotwood seedling (shown at right), an exotic invasive which would have prevented certification, and were excited to be able to certify this Florida-Friendly landscape.

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